The dirtiest word on the political pundit hard left during the past 8 years has been "Incrementalism." Jane Hamsher and Firedoglake went to war against Obama and the ACA because it embraced incrementalism instead of single payer "Medicare for all." During the 2016 election, the anti-Hillary far left reached a fever pitch over what they perceived as another 8 years of incremental progress from Hillary Clinton. The Young Turks and Glenn Greenwald led the charge of demonizing anything other than a hard swing away from the center and slow and steady change.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the revolution: Incrementalism won. Just like a lot of us neo-liberal sellout centrists said it would.
The theory wasn't all that complicated: America was too divided to cope with a sudden swing to the (by America's warped standards) "radical" left. There was literally no possible path to single payer in the ACA bill. People will dispute this but unless they can explain, in precise detail, how they would have gotten the blue dog Democrats from deep red states to support it, I really don't give a damn about their fact free fantasies.
With single payer a nonstarter, the Democrats passed a law with a very simple premise: Healthcare is a right, not a privilege. Republicans went nuclear. They had to. Obamacare was a gateway to single payer and anyone paying attention knew it. Once the public came to perceive healthcare as they something they were entitled to, like clean air, safe cars and rivers that didn't burst into flames, the march to a system of government run universal healthcare like every other industrialized nation currently has would be unstoppable. For Republicans that generally despise the poor and middle class, Obamacare was the worst thing to happen to America since we started making sure senior citizens could retire without having to live on cans of cat food.
7 years ago today, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. As of this writing, it stands on the verge of being partially repealed and the country is furious. Somehow, in the last 7 years, people came to see healthcare as a human right, not something only those with money could have. It was a slow, gradual, dare I say it?, incremental change. Even conservatives that once raged against "Obamacare" are outraged that Republicans are taking away their insurance or making it insanely more expensive.
The best hope for Republicans now is to wreck healthcare and hope it doesn't get fixed for a long enough period of time that people forget that they once felt entitled to it. But that runs its own risks. When the Democratic Party eventually regains power (assuming Generalissimo Trump does not have them arrested as enemies of the state), things might go just a little bit differently than it did in 2009:
They will have learned that no Republican aid is forthcoming, and that there is no point in attempting to find it. Republicans have, at this point, firmly discredited Democratic moderates and their promises of technocratic compromises.
Instead, Democrats could, within a matter of weeks, pass a short, clear law restoring and expanding the Medicaid expansion, restoring and expanding Obamacare’s tax credits, allowing Americans to buy into Medicare as an option on the exchanges, and paying for the whole thing by levying hefty taxes on the rich. The bill would be easy to write and easier to explain.
Ironically, the GOP's best hope for staving off single payer for as long as possible is to embrace Obamacare and undo their own sabotage. It will still lead to single payer eventually but a working system is a system that is slow to change. But that will never happen because Republicans are so driven by blind hatred of Obama at this point that they'll happily blow their own feet off so they can throw the toes at him.
In the meanwhile, when you hear people whining about the evils of incremental change, pat them on the head and get back to the work of moving the country to the left, one inch at a time.
There are 592 days left to the 2018 elections.
- This article kills fascists
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