Biden's new polling numbers-- according to Politico's new Morning Consult data-- are pretty amazing. I can't remember seeing a positive "country is on the right track" number in years (55-45%). His job approval is 62-35%. On specific issues, Biden's job approval is pretty comfortable so far"
health care- 57-29%
climate change- 54-30%
national security- 52-34%
gun policy- 43-35%
protecting Medicare and Social Security- 54-27%
Voting rights- 53-29%
Foreign policy- 49-34%
And their sample of voters views Biden more as a uniter (55%) than a divider (30%). Trump never had numbers like these... and I don't think Obama did either, at least not in his second term. Many progressive Democrats have continued to close ranks around Biden, despite some significant disappointments, particularly his tepid support for raising the minimum wage to $15, the sleight of hand regarding the $2,000 pandemic rescue checks, his lack of support for meaningful filibuster reform, his refusal to cancel federal student debt with an executive order, a suspiciously aggressive foreign policy and his lack of support for Medicare for All. I want to discuss his stand on Medicare-for-All in a moment, but first I want to draw your attention to an essay by Branko Marcetic in Jacobin today, The Democratic Party’s Real War in 2020 Was Against Bernie Sanders, a review of the new book by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes, Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won The Presidency.
Comparing Biden to Hillary, they noted that "her lack of vision, her refusal to shift her centrist policies to the left, her campaign-for-a-campaign’s-sake, the centering of her campaign around an individual rather than a set of principles-- these are all factors that could easily be repeated by the next establishment candidate" was reprised last year by Biden. "Once again," wrote Marcetic, "you had a conservative Democrat who had to work with advisors to figure out a 'rationale' for running for president, because the actual reason-- wanting to be president-- isn’t one a candidate can say out loud. The authors recount how Biden latched on early to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville as his raison d’être, one he cited endlessly, even as he publicly reminisced about his work with segregationists-- work the white supremacist Daily Stormer praised him for. Once again, you had a Democrat whose campaign strategy rested entirely on begging for money from the most insidious big money interests. According to Lucky, Biden’s advisors, recognizing he lacked the kind of small-dollar operation built over years by his rivals, early on steered him away from the idea he could reject money from Wall Street and limit donations to $200. So Biden instead spent the lead-up to the campaign going hat in hand to billionaire hedge fund executives and other members of the ultrarich, whom he privately assured 'nothing would fundamentally change' with him as president. And once again, you had a nominee who saw the party’s progressive base as not just a hinderance to his campaign, but as a genuine threat to his way of life."
Marcetic explained how the Democrats are "a party that in 2020 saw its biggest priority not as beating the man they cynically pretended they thought was a fascist, but as stopping Bernie Sanders. Democratic elites were not just ideologically hostile to the Sanders project, but materially threatened by it. After all, they could live and even thrive under another four years of Trump; the previous four years was proof of that. But if Sanders actually managed to take over the party, it was an open question how long it would be before the corporate largesse ran dry."
The Democratic Party repeated not just the missteps that led it to failure in 2016, but in every presidential election it’s lost over the past four decades: a centrist candidate with little popular enthusiasm; a base driven more by opposition to the incumbent than excitement for a positive vision; and a collection of committee-crafted slogans and soft-focus personality traits in place of bold ideas and a vision for a better world. It took two world historical crises, a uniquely despised incumbent, and a smattering of other extraordinary interventions to overcome all this and eke out the barest of wins in 2020.
The question is, what happens next time? Has the party truly learned any lessons? Or, having rehabilitated the conventional wisdom that already failed so disastrously in 2016, is it content to hope the same bet improbably works out again, happy to put the rest of us up as collateral?
One of the main "bold ideas" that wasn't included in any kind of vision for a better world was Medicare for All, which Biden has viewed ti veto if it passed Congress, which it won't unless voters get smart enough to replace a shitload of Blue Dogs and New Dems in the primaries and then defeat a few dozen Republicans in the 2022 primaries. That's not very likely to happen.
More than half the Democrats in the House are co-sponsors of Pramila's Medicare for All Act that was just reintroduced for 2021, since Pelosi and Hoyer buried the 2020 version and never allowed it to come up for a vote, despite pledging to do just that. Pramila: "While this devastating pandemic is shining a bright light on our broken, for-profit health care system, we were already leaving nearly half of all adults under the age of 65 uninsured or underinsured before COVID-19 hit. And we were cruelly doing so while paying more per capita for health care than any other country in the world. There is a solution to this health crisis-- a popular one that guarantees health care to every person as a human right and finally puts people over profits and care over corporations. That solution is Medicare for All-- everyone in, nobody out-- and I am proud to introduce it today alongside a powerful movement across America."
The co-sponsors: Alma Adams, Nanette Barragán, Karen Bass, Don Beyer, Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Jamaal Bowman, Brendan Boyle, Cori Bush, Salud Carbajal, Tony Cárdenas, André Carson, Matt Cartwright, Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Yvette Clarke, Emanuel Cleaver, Steve Cohen, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Danny Davis, Peter DeFazio, Diana DeGette, Mark DeSaulnier, Lloyd Doggett, Mike Doyle, Ted Deutch, Veronica Escobar, Adriano Espaillat, Teresa Leger Fernandez, Lois Frankel, Ruben Gallego, Jesús "Chuy" García, Jimmy Gomez, Al Green, Raúl Grijalva, Josh Harder, Alcee Hastings, Jahana Hayes, Brian Higgins, Jared Huffman, Sara Jacobs, Hakeem Jeffries, Hank Johnson, Mondaire Jones, Kaiali’i Kahele, William R. Keating, Robin Kelly, Ro Khanna, Daniel Kildee, Ann Kirkpatrick, James Langevin, Brenda Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Andy Levin, Mike Levin, Ted Lieu, Alan Lowenthal, Carolyn Maloney, James McGovern, Jerry McNerney, Gregory Meeks, Grace Meng, Jerrold Nadler, Grace Napolitano, Joe Neguse, Marie Newman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, AOC, Ilhan Omar, Frank Pallone, Jimmy Panetta, Ed Perlmutter, Chellie Pingree, Mark Pocan, Katie Porter, Ayanna Pressley, Jamie Raskin, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Bobby Rush, Linda Sanchez, John Sarbanes, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Schiff, Bobby Scott, Brad Sherman, Adam Smith, Jackie Speier, Eric Swalwell, Mark Takano, Bennie Thompson, Mike Thompson, Dina Titus, Rashida Tlaib, Paul Tonko, Ritchie Torres, Lori Trahan, Juan Vargas, Marc Veasey, Nydia Velázquez, Maxine Waters, Peter Welch, Susan Wild, Nikema Williams, Frederica Wilson and John Yarmuth.
Biden remains unswayed and remains loyal, first and foremost, like all American conservatives, regardless of party, to private insurance companies and not to the American people. He keeps pushing barely noticeable incremental upgrades to Obamacare. His next goal is better, a public option, but a waste of time since it will take enormous political capital-- virtually the same amount as Medicare-for-All-- without half the benefits. "Biden," reported Politico this morning, "campaigned on the idea, touting it as an achievable reform that would bring down costs without upending private health insurance. It consistently polls well across the political spectrum. Yet the obstacles are many: universal opposition from Republican lawmakers, reluctance among centrist Democrats who wield outsized influence, a powerful health industry ready to spend big to block it, and a long list of priorities for a new administration still pouring energy and political capital into ending the pandemic. But Democratic lawmakers and allies favoring a public option to compete with private insurers want the party to seize on its narrow congressional majorities to muscle through an idea that’s long been popular with the base. They’re betting that after years of rising health costs and the GOP’s failed attempts to throw out Obamacare, voters in the tightly contested 2022 midterms would reward Democrats for tackling health care costs."
Biden has yet to push the public option in conversations with Congress, but they expect that to change now that the $1.9 trillion stimulus package is out of the way. Pressure could also soon come from the left to go bigger on health care, as House progressives reintroduce their “Medicare for All” bill on Wednesday.
“Biden is well aware that the only part of the Democratic primary that anyone will remember is the debate between the public option and Medicare for All,” said a longtime Democratic health care expert who’s worked with him. “I don’t see him saying, ‘Never mind.’”
While Biden hasn’t said “never mind,” he hasn’t said “let’s do this” either. The White House was vague when asked about the public option. “We have more work to do to fulfill our commitment to expanding access to quality, affordable health care,” an administration spokesperson said.
Biden’s nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, Xavier Becerra-- who had personally backed Medicare for All-- voiced support for the public option during his confirmation hearings. But senators didn’t push him on specifics-- and he didn’t offer any.
Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), a leader of the moderate New Democrats Coalition, acknowledged that pushing a public option could be risky for Democrats in swing districts, given opponents’ efforts to brand it as “socialized medicine.” He said while there is appetite to bring down health costs, Democrats would have to do a better job selling the idea to the public than they did with Obamacare.
A little correction here. Ami Bera is an incredibly corrupt corporate whore and there is nothing remotely "moderate" about him. His a right-wing Democrat who should have been kicked out of the party long ago. He's perfect for the New Dems and shares vice chair duties with 3 other conservatives, none of whom have co-sponsored Medicare for All: Sharice Davids (KS), Ann Kuster (NH) and Scott Peters (CA).
Biden campaigned on an expansive vision of a public option that would be available to Obamacare marketplace shoppers, low-income adults in states that shunned Medicaid expansion, and those who can get a better deal with a public option than they can anywhere else, including through the workplace. Not everyone would be eligible for a federal subsidy, though.
The deep-pocketed health care industry sees any variation of the public option as a threat to its revenue and is already running state and national ads against an “unaffordable, one-size-fits-all government health insurance system.” The Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, a lobbying group uniting top players in the hospital, insurance and pharmaceutical industries, in recent weeks bought TV spots in Maine, Montana and Washington, DC, warning of tax hikes to pay for a public option. The group also launched ad campaigns to scuttle state-level public option proposals under discussion, including those in Colorado, Connecticut, Nevada and New Mexico.
So far only Washington state has begun its own public option, and it was watered down under industry pressure. People are getting covered under it for the first time this year.
I asked several members of Congress who back Medicare for All if they will get behind the public option. Most said "No."