Did you watch the debate last night? No, not that one—the REAL one, where third party candidates got to participate as well, having been denied a spot in the mainstream media version. It isn’t too late! You can still go listen to some more intelligent answers than what you got from either Obama or Romney last night. Of course, neither party wants you to know about these alternatives, because you might, horrors, ask them harder questions.
I thought both Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson did well. In general, Stein’s positions seem more solid and thought out than Rocky Anderson’s to me, and I’m going to call her the better speaker—but I wouldn’t be unhappy with Anderson as President. I’m backing the better of two goods. Neither one of them said something as horrifying as calling the US the “one indispensable nation”, as if everyone else is chopped liver. Both condemned the drone assassinations as not just wrong but wrong-headed, a sure-fire way to keep anger hot against us in the Middle East.
And both are in agreement that we need to go ahead already and have Medicare for All.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve heard the same arguments against voting for a third party that I’ve heard for Medicare for All. Mainly it boils down to “I agree completely, but it isn’t practical right now.” The more I hear it, the more I’m indulging in daydreams of getting all these practical people in the same room—maybe rent the Von Braun Center—on the promise of some celebrity speaker that appeals to folks from both parties (suggestions welcome). I’d have that speaker get up and tell the guests “Surprise! You were all invited because you have something in common—you have said you are in favor of Medicare for All but that there weren’t enough people who agreed to make it happen. Look around! Notice the prominent businesspeople, the politicians, and your neighbors. We’ve got plenty of food and bathrooms. Start talking to each other. Don’t leave this building until you have a plan to get the job done.”
In the meanwhile, I have a few suggestions, in these last weeks before the election, which might help us move a little closer to getting real healthcare reform.
1) Don’t be so partisan you act a fool. Think about what you are saying before you trot out another goofy partisan cliché or post a meme on your Facebook wall. For example, a Republican doctor I know was having fits in the hospital parking lot over the idea of turning our state Medicaid program over to private third-party insurers to run—he said they would ruin our program. Then when I asked what he thought about Medicare for All, he said “Oh, no—government can’t do anything right.” A Democrat friend, even though she supports Medicare for All, goes into near-apoplexy at the slightest criticism of the same ACA she knows full well to be ridden with flaws, and finally says “ok, you are right, but we can’t say any of those things until after the election.” My friend, if you can’t say the truth now, when it matters, you can never say it.
2) Before the election, make a point to criticize at least one thing your candidate says or does, in the hearing of friends on another side. Come on, be brave. Why? No real human being is or was perfect, not even—gasp—Mother Teresa. Not Jesus, not Buddha, not Lance Armstrong, not Gandhi, not Darwin. If you act like your candidate walks on water, people in other parties will write you off as a cult member. I support Jill Stein—last night I heard her criticize Romney for being “all over the map” in his positions. I think that is a bad strategy (see #4 below). Someone needs to tell her not to bob her head quite so much, because it is distracting. Sorry, Jill, you know I love you.
3) Before the election, make a point to approve of at least one thing another candidate says, in the hearing of his or her supporters. No human is completely without merit, and if you behave as if one is, you lose credibility. I am proud of President Obama for openly supporting gay marriage rights. I am pleased that Romney has spoken in support of adoption by gay parents. Both men seem to treat their families with great respect and kindness.
4) Quit criticizing people for changing their minds. Even if they have currently changed them in the wrong directions. Do you want pigheaded leaders who refuse to consider other positions and will go down on the Titanic even if they could wade to shore? Have you never changed your mind on anything? Don’t make it any harder than it already is for them to change their minds in the direction you want! Instead say “Governor Romney, you once spoke out in favor of reproductive rights for women—let’s talk about why you need to get back to that position.” Or, “President Obama, you once advocated Medicare for All—let’s put that back on the table.”
5) Quit trying to defeat legislation from “the other side” at every turn, because you don’t want them to look good in the next election. If they want to do the right thing, let them, and then thank them. That’s the grownup thing to do. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of forgetting this.
6) If there is an issue you really, really care about, do everything possible to pull that issue out of the partisan arena. If you are a visible spokesperson for an issue, strongly consider becoming an Independent. Don’t turn gay marriage into a Democrat position, because Republicans will feel even more obligated to undermine you. If you are a Republican, don’t turn thriftiness into a partisan issue or insist that government must fail at whatever it tries. That’s the single biggest reason I left the two party system myself, not only because Medicare for All is ignored by both parties but because I don’t want it to be associated with only one of them. That would be the death of a good idea—if we got it passed with a supermajority, all the other party could think about would be how to repeal it in 4 years. They wouldn’t even be able to notice if they loved it. I need to be able to say, wherever I am, that I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat, so either side will be able to listen. When I made that statement at a recent talk, one obviously conservative couple became very interested in discussing single payer and expressed the thought that even though it wouldn’t fix the whole problem, it was something to think about. Then they asked if I was a fan of Glen Beck. I’m not, but if Mr. Beck can find a way to make Medicare for All sound good to his audience, I will say something nice.
7) Quit saying (fill in the blank) isn’t “practical” if you think (fill in the blank) is a good idea. Just stop it! You don’t want to be remembered for sounding like a doofus. You don’t want to be like Ike, about whom it was said “President Eisenhower was a fine general and a good, decent man, but if he had fought World War II the way he fought for civil rights, we would all be speaking German now.” Or like Hannah Mather Crocker, who said of Mary Wollstonecraft (in regards to advocating women’s rights) “her theory is unfit for practice.” You don’t want to wind up in a list of folks quoted saying everything from airplanes to the Beatles is an unworkable idea. Your children’s children will laugh at you.
Medicare for All is, of course, very practical. It isn’t just an idea—it has been done, and it has succeeded. In fact, some form of universal healthcare has been accomplished in every single other developed country on the planet. They spend less money for better health and longer lives. They must be looking at our “indispensable” selves and wondering what is wrong with us.
What makes change impractical? If you haven’t spoken up for what you believe in, if you haven’t done what you can do to make it happen, if you’ve kept your mouth shut to avoid hurting a favored candidate, if you’ve ever called a needed and doable change “unreasonable”, I can answer—it is you. You have prevented the progress you want to see. What can make change practical? You! Not a candidate, not a party, not other people figuring it out for themselves—you, knowing what is right and committing to making it happen.