#ForceTheVote: The Debate on Medicare for All That Is Dividing the American Left
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 21 Dec 2020
20 Dec 2020 – A debate is currently trending amongst the American political left: there is a new strategy to force a vote on Medicare for All in the House of Representatives. The idea was put forth by Jimmy Dore, a YouTube show host who frequently refers to himself as a ‘pothead jagoff comedian working from his garage’.
Jimmy Dore first proposed the idea on November 27Th during his popular YouTube show (830k+ subscribers) and it has since gained momentum, raising a heated debate amongst the left and leading prominent progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to get involved and subsequently come under fire for voicing her opposition to the strategy.
Jimmy’s outspoken character and independence springs from the fact that he never received any corporate funding and continues to resist Google’s maneuvers aimed at preventing independent voices from being heard across the web. But his ‘abrasive’ style is not one that pleases certain sectors of the American left and the ‘storm’ he’s created on Twitter speaks for itself. Jimmy has himself been a victim of the profoundly corrupt American health system, having come close to bankruptcy at one point in his life due to a rare medical condition.
But instead of getting behind the idea, many on the left did not hesitate to attack him. He has made many enemies over the years, often for exposing those who go along with imperialist views, and mainstream media talking points, when reporting on issues that go against corporate interests and/or are ‘sensitive’ to the establishment.
Jimmy’s proposed strategy is to pressure the members of the progressive caucus in the House of Representatives, to withhold their support for Nancy Pelosi’s effort at renewing her speakership mandate in the upcoming January election, unless she agrees to floor a vote on Medicare for All. The idea was well received by many leftists who have since contributed to fuel the debate by continuing to twit about it and hosting important discussions in their podcasts/YouTube shows.
But the moment that made the campaign go viral was when AOC, the ‘shiniest of stars’ in the progressive caucus, decided to get involved in the debate by replying to a twit by Justin Jackson – a football player for the Los Angeles Chargers who is also an advocate for progressive ideas. In her twit AOC voiced her opposition to the strategy, stating that progressives should instead “use leverage to push for things that can happen and change lives, i.e., a $15 minimum wage vote in the first 100 days” thus “elevating long-time progressive champions to important positions of leadership”.
AOC has been idolized by the left since she defeated 10-term Democrat incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, in the New York 14th Congressional District’s primary election. Later on, her election to Congress pulverized progressives in an almost unprecedented manner: apart from being a woman of color, she also became the youngest congresswoman in history (she was 28 years old at the time).
Jimmy Dore was reportedly the first to give AOC a platform during her primary campaign back in June of 2017. She has snubbed him ever since because Jimmy never refrained from denouncing her every time she broke a campaign promise. But now that a debate is being had about an issue for which she promised her constituents she would fight for, AOC has taken a stance against it. This in the middle of a pandemic, a historical and probably ideal scenario to bring about positive change. If not now when? Jimmy sums it up in this ‘aggressive’ video where he convincingly urges everyone, no matter the political background, to get behind his idea.
AOC has raised some concerns among the left for her apparent ‘cozying up’ to the right wing of the Democratic Party, ever since she was elected. Examples of that are her vote (contrary to a campaign promise) for Pelosi when in January of 2019 the latter was re-elected speaker of the house; calling Pelosi the ‘momma bear of the Democratic Party’; reportedly voting for the CARE’s act (the largest upward transfer of wealth ever) but claiming she voted against it; or recently voting for the renewal of the Patriot’s Act.
But let’s go back to the debate that is trending on Twitter. The main argument proposed by the #ForceTheVote movement is that the present sociopolitical context is the right moment for a vote on Medicare for All. The US is in the middle of a deadly pandemic where over 324K have died of Covid-19, some 15 million have lost their health care coverage, and many more are on the brink of homelessness.
AOC has been presenting nothing but flawed arguments to keep opposing the idea. After her initial response to Justin Jackson’s twit she went as far as to claim that forcing a vote just to see who’d have the courage to go against Medicare for All in the middle of a pandemic (one of Jimmy Dore’s arguments) would be a waist because, according to her, those who co-sponsored the Medicare for All Act of 2019 are already committed to the cause (it is common knowledge that in American politics, co-sponsoring a proposal like the one mentioned above equates to almost zero in terms of commitment); she went on to complain that the movement is actually spoiling the efforts that progressives in Congress are already engaged in… behind closed doors. Are we supposed to believe this type of argument, coming from a politician’s mouth?
This last argument by AOC has sparked outrage among those in the #ForceTheVote movement, chief among them Jimmy Dore; but other prominent figures in the political left are struggling to make sense of AOC’s assertions and opposition to the movement: Dr. Cornell West, Briahna Joy Gray (former National Press Secretary for the 2020 Sanders campaign), Kyle Kulinski (host of the Secular Talk Podcast and founder of the Justice Democrats), Cenk Uygur founder and host of The Young Turks and co-founder of the Justice Democrats), Kristall Ball (co-host of the show Rising); the list goes on and on.
Despite the valid arguments put forth by those who support the movement, AOC (as well as her colleagues in the progressive caucus) is still refusing to join them, thus failing to deliver on one of her main campaign promises in a moment when the devastating impact of the pandemic is dramatically endangering the health and the livelihood of millions in the working class, including many of AOC’s constituents, one would assume.
In the meantime the debate continues to trend on twitter and the movement is gaining traction with the help of the webpage ForceTheVote.org. At the time this article is being written, there are as many as 15,836 signatures. It more than doubled in less than 24h!
What will unfold in the next few weeks remains to be seen but judging for the increasing support the movement has received in the past few days/hours, it is easy to guess that a lot of pressure will be exerted on progressives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Barbara Lee, Chuy Garcia, Cori Bush, Ilhan Omar, Jamaal Bowman, Jamie Raskin, Katie Porter, Marie Newman, Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, Rashida Tlaib, Raúl Grijalva and Ro Khanna.
Visit ForceTheVote.Org today and sign the petition. The moment is NOW!
Nuno Ramalho is a Portuguese/Canadian non-practicing lawyer who currently works in Social Services and is a member of the Kingston, Ontario, Canada chapter of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights. He is also interested in advocacy, human rights and nonviolent conflict transformation. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment.
Tags: Activism, Anglo America, COVID-19, Conflict, Coronavirus, Economics, Health, Human Rights, Left Politics, Pandemic, Public Health, Social justice, USA
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Dec 2020.
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