Thursday, September 14, 2017

How Progress Happens

A word or two about the politics of Bernie's Medicare-for-all proposal. A number of people are rightly excited about making sweeping, systemic change to American healthcare. (Everyone, far right to far left, agrees it sucks.) The center-left reaction against it is predictable: "but it can't pass right now.

This is a terrible argument because it misunderstands how politics works. It's as if mainstream Dems imagine you can secretly build political momentum for a policy goal and then, only once support is overwhelming, announce the goal. Of course, the opposite is true. Support for policy objectives has to come first. You have to agree on a policy and then build the coalition to pass it. Sometimes this takes months; sometimes decades.

What Bernie's plan does is set the goal. Now we begin to build the coalition to make it happen.

As an addendum, there's an irony here; the far left made a similar mistake 8 years ago. Then, supporters of Obamacare pointed out that progress had to be made; failure meant no further attempts for a decade or so. Conversely, even an imperfect plan would move expectations for real socialized medicine possible. The far left was adamant that Obamacare was a neoliberal sellout and would have killed it. Yet here we are, eight years later, *having built support* for a better plan, now in a position to push for it.

This is how politics works. It's a very slow, compromised, and unsatisfying process--and that's when it's successful.

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