Politico ran a story yesterday under the headline “Sanders ‘litmus test’ alarms Democrats,” the focus of which was on potential primary challenges to centrist Democratic candidates in 2018 from the progressive left. The gist:
Sanders has decided the moment is right to launch his proposal for the single-payer health insurance system that helped form the backbone of his presidential message. And Democrats who don’t get behind it could find themselves on the wrong side of the most energetic wing of the party — as well as the once and possibly future presidential candidate who serves as its figurehead.
As the story notes, a majority of House Dems now support a single-payer bill, while even more “moderate” Senators (including some who take a good chunk of change from pharmaceutical and insurance companies) from the Kamala Harris/Kristin Gillibrand/Cory Booker wing have started to express tepid support for the concept—the kind of vague overtures that may not be sincere, but that at least show the power of the idea, and the sense that politicians understand they can’t ignore it completely.
Now, as you’d guess, moderate Democrats don’t like it, and keep insisting that more ‘conversative’ liberal candidates are necessary to win certain districts in certain reddish regions. That ushers in the money quote from none other than Nina Turner, former Ohio state Senator and current president of Our Revolution, a progressive PAC with roots in Sanders’ 2016 campaign:
“Any Democrat worth their salt that doesn’t unequivocally say Medicare-for-all is the way to go? To me, there’s something wrong with them,” said former Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, president of Our Revolution. “We’re not going to accept no more hemming and hawing. No more game playing. Make your stand.”
Yes. YES. God, more of this, please, all the time, from all the Democrats.
The fact is, while certain issues may indeed be “tough sells” in different parts of the country, it’s disingenuous for any Democrat to argue that universal healthcare won’t catch on in Trump country. This is not abortion, or gun ownership. It’s an idea with widespread popularity, and one whose moment has come—if the Dems fail to press their advantage now, in the wake of the Republican healthcare failures, they don’t deserve the title of opposition party.
There’s no indication yet that Sanders or anyone else will actively encourage widespread primary coups against moderates, but if he does, it won’t be something for which progressives deserve blame. The finger-pointing should be entirely in the other direction—at the establishment politicians who lacked the courage and imagination to seize a good idea.
Read Katie Halper’s interview with Nina Turner here.