Now that the Republicans cleared the first hurdle to dismantling the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare, singing Democrats are feeling the heat as calls for single-payer health care grow louder. In particular, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who received $20,000 from health insurance providers in the 2016 election cycle, has come under fire for her opposition to such a measure.
Back in October, when confronted by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press about the problem of high health insurance premiums existent under Obamacare, a stammering Pelosi professed her support for a single-payer system, stating, “I wanted single payer—I mean, I’d love a single payer [sic], but we’re not there. I wanted a public option, which would address that.”
However, at a town hall in March, Pelosi seemed to backtrack on her earlier remarks, telling a riled up crowd of her constituents that the ACA was actually to the left of single-payer. Predictably, this statement was met with raucous booing, prompting a hurried defense followed by an admonition from the Minority Leader.
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Soon after, the embattled Pelosi continued her progressive eye poking, telling Vice News Correspondent Evan McMorris-Santoro that single-payer should not be included in the Democratic Party Platform, and that it should be left to the states to implement such systems. Naturally, many on the left were frustrated as polls show popular support for the measure.
But Californians in favor of single-payer health care—at least, those living in the 12th District Pelosi currently represents—need not despair. Stephen R. Jaffe, a progressive who has made a career protecting the little guy as an employment lawyer, is challenging Pelosi from the left.
Jaffe, who Paste was fortunate enough to speak with over the phone, said that he was inspired to run for office by Senator Bernie Sanders’ meteoric campaign and the Democrats’ devastating loss in November.
“I remember every presidential election since Eisenhower/Stevenson in 1952, and I really have never felt a personal connection like I did with Bernie,” he said, explaining how he had worked for the campaign. “When we all woke up on November 9th I think we were all in various states of shock that what happened happened—including me. I decided that I was going to do what Sanders was asking people to do, and get personally involved.”
As far as health care is concerned, Jaffe told Paste in no uncertain terms, that he is unapologetically in favor of single-payer.
“Single-payer is the only path forward,” he explained, echoing Sanders and explaining that he saw this as a moral issue as well as a political one. “I think there is a human duty to keep all of us healthy, and not allow people to become sick and die due to financial issues. Having private insurance companies make profits off the illness of people is immoral.”
Where Pelosi is concerned, Jaffe criticized her tepid commitment to progressive causes, as well as her extensive donor network which features prominently corporate interests. “She sees herself as a national politician,” he lamented.
Jaffe made it clear he has been unimpressed by the top Democrat’s leadership in the House. Before we spoke, the progressive hopeful had words for Congressional Democrats who had burst into the chorus of “Na Na Hey Hey” in the wake of the GOP’s health care vote. Jaffe took to Facebook to call the behavior “unconscionable,” stating, “Citizens across the nation are in tears after this vote.”
Although Pelosi has never faced a serious challenge for her seat, 2018 may be the year that changes given the groundswell of left wing activism she has run afoul of. Already, her grip on the party appears to be weakening, having faced her toughest challenge to date in the race for her leadership position in a virtual unknown from Ohio. Shortly after her victory, she insisted on CBS’ Face the Nation that people did not want a new direction for the Democratic Party. But her words felt somehow hollow.