Reviews | Where is the mass mobilization movement for Medicare for All?

Long before the Covid pandemic, it was important to ask, where are the mass movements to enact majority-supported change and reform in Congress? Another question: what happened to the mass gatherings that caught the attention of our 535 members of Congress to whom we gave our sovereign power?

Let’s start with universal health care, which President Harry Truman urged a recalcitrant Congress in 1945. Proponents, including labor unions, could not defeat the physician lobby in the form of the American Medical Association. President Lyndon Johnson wanted universal health insurance but had to settle for Medicare, with some limits, for the elderly and Medicaid for some poor families. Opponents have cited Vietnam War expenses as the reason for these limitations.

Since then, there have been no mass rallies or marches for universal health care. Sporadic demonstrations by a few hundred people on the steps of the Capitol showed unresponsive members, who have their own comprehensive health insurance, the decline in civic energy.

With the enormous waste, abuse, corruption and avoidable losses documented in today’s health sector, and around 5,000 people a week dying in hospitals due to what a report assessed by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine peers called “preventable problems” at hospitals, one would think there would be regular marches on Washington to pass Medicare-for-All. Canadians did it almost sixty years ago. (See, Too many people are suffering or are gripped by anxiety, terror, and fear, with no or adequate health insurance, while too few are demanding congressional action.

Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2016 insurgent presidential campaign, sabotaged since the victory for the nomination by Hillary Clinton’s Democratic Party apparatchiks, could be seen as mass electoral action. However, Sanders has yet to take this huge list of support and outreach and convert it into a mass movement. And so the painful years continue to pass.

Other majoritarian reforms and shifts also failed to coalesce into mass movements, as happened with civil rights and environmental protections in the 1960s and early 1970s. Reforms such as the living wage, to make it easier for workers to form unions to bargain with big business, to end student loan scams and rackets, to eliminate huge tax evasions for the rich and corporations, to invest in rebuilding public works communities across the country, cracking down on corporate scammers who are draining consumers’ wallets, undermining their safety and ending the corrosive impact of corporate campaign contributions. All of these measures have broad public support.

What are the reasons for sedentary citizenship in a country? Remember that our Constitution begins and ends with “We the People”, not “We the Businesses”. You readers know all the ways powerful forces hold people back, feel helpless, and distracted by so-called 24/7 entertainment, and everything in between. Many aggrieved people struggle to get through the day.

Imagine if, despite the barriers to action, only one percent of citizens are getting informed and mobilizing for congressional reforms that have a calmer vast majority of the population behind them. One percent of adults represents approximately 2.5 million Americans in 435 congressional districts. In the 1960s, much less than this level of organized and committed people was needed.

One day, some leaders will emerge in the aforementioned areas and other crucial areas of injustice and put this one percent theory into practice.

I wrote a little book, Breaking through power: it’s easier than we think, to explain how the optimistic critical masses of American history have worked together to improve our society. I described the kinds of changes one percent of the people might propose to revolutionize politics for the common good and “the pursuit of happiness.” For this to happen, enough people need to civically believe in themselves and pull together to act for change.

About John Tuttle

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