Bernie Sanders. Photo: flickr user ‘350 VermontCreative Commons 2.0 license


Two weeks ago Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders introduced, for the first time, a ‘Medicare for All’ bill to the Senate, a bill which will legislate for the introduction of a Single-Payer healthcare system. Currently the U.S. operates under a privatised healthcare system where if a person doesn’t have health insurance they don’t get healthcare. According to Sanders, the U.S. is the only major country in the world that sees healthcare as a privilege and not a right.

The Medicare for All bill will not succeed in becoming law, but that is not why Sen. Sanders introduced it. Since Presidential, House and Senate defeats for the Democratic Party in 2016 it has found itself on a journey of rediscovery, queue Bernie Sanders. Sanders’ outsider primary campaign grew from an early win in New Hampshire and took the Democratic primaries by storm, remaining in the race until mid-June 2016. In total, Sanders received just over thirteen million votes in the primary election. Since then Sander’s popularity has increased and the former Mayor of the small city of Burlington in Vermont is now a household name North and South of the Mason-Dixon line. Sander’s is now capitalising on his popularity and is taking this opportunity to bring parts of his agenda into the mainstream platform of the Democratic Party.

The 2020 Presidential election, though it seems far away, is certainly in the minds of some Democratic Senators who were keen to co-sponsor Sander’s ‘Medicare for All’ bill, namely; Kirstin Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and progressive Democrat Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). It is unclear as to whether Bernie Sanders will run in 2020 as he will be of the ripe old age of 79 at the time of the election. Who will run and who the nominee will be is actually a fairly moot point. The point is this; if this bill, and it’s co-sponsors, are anything to go by ‘Single-Payer healthcare’ will need to be on the agenda for those eyeing a run to take over the White House. This is a huge progressive step for the Democrats who in the past have been less than enthusiastic in supporting such a radical step. But be under no illusions if it wasn’t for Sander’s popularity this would not have happened. Indeed, it marks the first time that mainstream Democrats, like Booker, Harris and Gillibrand have openly called for a ‘Single-Payer’ System. Healthcare however, should not be the only change in the Democratic Party’s agenda.

If the Democrats are serious about taking back the reigns of government they need to embrace a more radical agenda. An article in The Hill last week said the Democrats need to win back the centre – really? Was it the centre that left the Democrats and voted for Trump? The answer is no. It was working class, blue collar voters across the US but in particular the Rustbelt that lost Clinton the election. If the Democrats want to appeal to those voters they need to come out against reprehensible free trade agreements, they need to offer young people hope by making public colleges tuition free and they need to be tougher on the banks and financial industry. Not least, the Democrats, the party supposedly of working people, need to once and for all state that campaign finance reform is the only way true democracy can be returned to the people of the U.S.

It is not enough for the Democrats to oppose President Trump- they need to be clear and unequivocal in what they stand for. At a time when the Republicans are shifting further to the right it is time the Democrats finally offered working people a true alternative to the same old establishment politics, an alternative that Barack Obama promised but failed to deliver. It’s time to say goodbye to the revolving door between the executive branch and Goldman Sachs (Sachs employees have held top economic positions in each administration since Clinton). It was Democratic president Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagal that took the cop off the beat on Wall Street, and a Democratic President in Barack Obama who, dealing with the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, never reinstated Glass-Steagal to ensure that banks were no longer ‘too big too fail’ and needed bailing out by the U.S. taxpayer. Can Democrats really be that surprised when working people don’t vote for them?

The Trump presidency has brought in a new era for U.S. politics. In his conference speech Jeremy Corbyn said the political mainstream has shifted- though he was referring to Britain, the same can be said in the U.S. Establishment, centrist, liberal politics has failed working people across the globe and if the Democrats want to win these people back they need to offer a real alternative.



Editors note: the sentence “it is time the Democrats finally offered working people a true alternative to the same old establishment politics, that Barack Obama promised but failed to deliver.” was amended to read “it is time the Democrats finally offered working people a true alternative to the same old establishment politics, an alternative that Barack Obama promised but failed to deliver.” at 10:01 am 2/10/2017 for the purposes of clarity.