Another Democratic uprising in Texas puts a deep red GOP district at play with progressive policy

When I started Progressives Everywhere last year, it was with candidates like Miguel Levario in mind. In order to truly rebuild a better Democratic Party, we need to work to build it everywhere. Too many states had been instantly surrendered to Republicans, which, along with enabling corrupt politicians to govern millions of people, had the effect of making our political map smaller and smaller.

There were far too many districts that didn’t even field Democratic candidates for local and federal office in 2016 — including Levario’s northwest Texas district, TX-19, which includes cities like Abilene and Lubbock and major schools such as Texas Tech University.

Levario is a professor of history at Texas Tech and the first Democrat to seriously run to represent the district since 2004, when Texas’s extreme partisan gerrymander made it deep red. But between Texas’s seismic and ongoing demographic shifts, the district’s changing profile, and the wave of progressive energy sweeping a nation disgusted with GOP grifters, Levario figures he has a pretty decent shot at pulling off the upset. His opponent is against an unremarkable Republican, Rep. Jodey Arrington, who is running for re-election for the first time, improving his odds even further.

Continue reading “Another Democratic uprising in Texas puts a deep red GOP district at play with progressive policy”

Medicare-for-All can happen, but maybe not how you’re expecting

What’s the largest medical bill you’ve ever received? OK, I don’t want to make you sick thinking back on it, so I’ll tell you mine: Back in 2012, I was slapped with a hospital bill for half a million dollars, which is more than most Americans pay for their house. This wasn’t some elective procedure, either — open-heart surgery very rarely is.

It’s important to note that this happened after the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Obamacare was a nice upgrade to a fundamentally flawed system. More people got health insurance, but it’s often still uber-expensive (and getting worse) and still fully unavailable to tens of millions of Americans. Medicaid is being throttled, Republicans are sabotaging protections, and big pharma is colluding with middlemen to rip-off patients and states. Even people with “good” insurance get screwed — personally, I just got a $500 bill for a ten-minute checkup.

Democrats are finally beginning to realize that continually trying to patch up a ship built to sink is futile. And after years of it being considered a far-left radical idea, single-payer healthcare — or Medicare for All — is becoming the mainstream position of national Democratic leaders.

To take a closer look at the momentum behind the single-payer campaign, I spoke with Dr. Carol Paris, the president of Physicians for a National Health Program. For years, PNHP has been at the forefront of advocating for universal healthcare; during the Trump administration, it has worked to both save Obamacare and educate Democrats and lobby nationally for a more complete overhaul of our still-broken healthcare system. She spoke some hard truths about the state of our politics and party, but they’re important ones for us to understand and accept as we push forward for truly comprehensive universal healthcare.

Note: Because it’s a 501(c)(3), PNHP cannot endorse any political candidates. So, I’ve separately made this list of candidates who support Medicare-for-All — CLICK HERE to donate to them!

Medicare for All has more support amongst Democrats than ever. Why do you think that’s happened?

It really began growing as the reality of the failure of the Affordable Care Act to control costs and insure everyone became clearer… I don’t think that moved the legislators, I think it moved their constituents to put pressure on them to endorse single-payer.

The Affordable Care Act did extend care for a lot of people, but costs still go up. Were you expecting that?

I was not optimistic. The best thing about the Affordable Care Act was the Medicaid expansion. We could have done that with so much less effort and expenditure of resources and just forgotten about the rest. The best part of it and what helped the most people was the Medicaid expansion. With the marketplace and the subsidies, there’s so many problems, because the private for-profit insurance industry is baked into it. That’s a big part of it.

The industry says it can do things more efficiently, but that hasn’t been borne out. What kind of tricks is it still able to pull, despite new regulations?

The individual mandate created a whole market for new customers. Then there was the requirement that insurers can no longer deny coverage to people who are either too sick to be profitable or too old and therefore more risky. Eliminating those but adding the mandate put the insurance industry in a precarious situation of having to figure out how to work around the guaranteed issue and community rating while still drawing in the mandated younger members.

So what they do is they make narrow coverage networks. So you can get a plan with a subsidy or plan on the marketplace that will bring down the cost of your premium, but they do it by requiring you to go on a plan that has a very narrow network. There was a study and it found that in New York, none of the marketplace plans included the number one cancer hospital in the city, Memorial Sloan Kettering.

As far as pharmaceuticals, they’ll just put the expensive pharmaceuticals into a higher tier so that they’re just shifting more and more of the cost of care to the consumer.

So how do you envision a full Medicare-for-All system working?

The only way to actually implement it in a way that will be cost-effective over time is specifically to do it as a single-payer strategy. All single-payer means is instead of multiple insurance companies providing insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid and Tricare and all the others, everyone is in a single risk pool.

It really is only going to be feasible if it’s done on a national level. when you’ve got 325 million people and everyone working is contributing to the tax base that is paying for our healthcare. You’ve got a big enough tax base then to actually cover everyone’s needs for all medically necessary care — including dental, vision, and long-term care.

The problem people get hung up on is, “Oh my God, my taxes are gonna go up?” This is a situation where your taxes go up modestly and your net income goes up as well, and the reason is because when your taxes go up, it’s for covering the things that you’re now not paying for out of your after tax dollars, premiums, copays, deductibles, out of network costs. All of that goes away.

One thing I can never answer is what happens to all the jobs in the insurance industry?

Written into the House’s Medicare-for-All bill, HR 676, is funding to provide unemployment for a year and retraining for anyone who makes $100,000 a year or less in the insurance industry. And remember that we’re going to need some of those people to administer the Medicare for All plan. So the number of [of workers] isn’t going to go to zero.

I was actually just having dinner last night with a surgeon from Nashville who told me a great story. She’s a 67-year-old general surgeon and she was just saying she was so fed up with trying to get the care for her patients that they need. She does a lot of breast surgery and there’s a particular kind of breast cancer called BCRA 1 and 2, where if you have those genetic markers, it is a reasonable option for a woman to have prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, without having breast cancer.

Blue Cross Blue Shield denied the patient’s claim, her preauthorization to get this done. And what the doctor told me was that she finally remembered that a colleague of hers had quit the practice of medicine and was now working at Blue Cross Blue Shield doing preauthorization. So she called him up and he finally agreed that this was reasonable and authorized it. I’m telling you the story to say there are a number of doctors and nurses who are licensed clinicians in this country who have stopped practicing clinical medicine because they burned out and are now working for the insurance industry. These are people that could go right back into the delivery side of healthcare.

So if Democrats take back Congress and then the White House, how do you make the push for this, after the Affordable Care Act was what they mustered last time?

You’re talking to a person who is not easily persuaded that the Democratic Party is our friend. Remember that in 2009 we had a majority in the House and the Senate and we had a Democratic president and we couldn’t even get single-payer included in the discussion of health care reform. I’m actually of the persuasion that we need to have our grassroots organizing working on Republican members of the House and Senate, too. You get them to co-sponsor single-payer legislation. I don’t think that’s impossible. I think if the grassroots makes it toxic for any member of Congress, Democrat or Republican, for them not to get on board, then they’ll get on board because they want to hold onto their seat.

I think it’s great if people want to put their time and energy into Democratic candidates who say that they will support. But corporate Dems are still in control and I am not convinced that just getting more Democrats elected to office is going to turn the tide. I think what’s going to turn the tide is what we saw last week, with a new Reuters poll that showed 84.5% of Democrats and 51.9 percent of Republicans now support Medicare for All, and 70% overall.

That’s how we’re going to get Medicare, in my opinion, by also having moderate Republicans who are absolutely being screwed by the rising cost of healthcare. I think they’re going to get on board with this and say, “I’ve got to do this for myself and my family and stop listening to Fox News and astroturf groups like the Partnership for America’s Healthcare Future.”

So let’s say we do get Medicare-for-All. What happens when a president or Congress who hate it take office, as we’re seeing right now with the GOP sabotaging the Affordable Care Act?

I actually don’t want to pass Medicare-for-All legislation if it’s done the way the Affordable Care Act was passed, through reconciliation and no bipartisan support. If we do it that way, then they’re just turning it into a hot potato, just like the ACA is, and it’s just going to get beaten back and forth between parties and never have the opportunity to become the beloved program that Medicare became. What I really would hope is that we passed this legislation because there is such a groundswell of support among the American people that members of Congress simply get on because they don’t have any alternative.

We’re seeing more buy-in from the business community, especially small businesses that are beginning to realize that the Chamber of Commerce is not their friend and that it’s in their best interest to support Medicare-for-All, that it would be so much better for their bottom line. And look at the teacher strike in West Virginia, there was actually a picture of a teacher holding up a sign that said, “We’ll work for health insurance.” So I think we need to be just continuing to grow the movement among our own citizens who are day in and day out being beaten and beleaguered by the profiteering healthcare system.

Candidates who support Medicare for All

Here’s a list of candidates for Congress in 2018 that support Medicare for All. You can donate to all of them by CLICKING HERE.

Ammar Campa-Najjar (CA-50)

Liz Watson (IA-9)

Andy Levin (MI-9)

Rob Davidson (MI-2)

Ilhan Omar (MN-5)

Randy Wadkins (MS-1)

Kara Eastman (NE-1)

Deb Haaland (NM-1)

Perry Gershon (NY-1)

Liuba Grechen Shirley (NY-2)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14)

Dana Balter (NY-24)

Nate McMurray (NY-27)

Phillip Price (NC-11)

Scott Wallace (PA-1)

Madeleine Dean (PA-4)

Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-5)

Susan Wild (PA-7)

Jess King (PA-11)

Marc Friedenberg (PA-12)

Joe Cunningham (SC-1)

Beto O’Rourke (TX-Sen)

Veronica Escobar (TX-16)

Gina Ortiz-Jones (TX-23)

Eric Holguin (TX-27)

 

Ballot initiatives: Secrets of the most successful progressive strategy in years

Election night 2016 was a nightmare for progressives (and really most Americans), but there was one somewhat surprising and very promising bright spot. Ballot measures pushed by progressive groups were approved by huge margins by voters across the country, resulting in increased minimum wages, expanded Medicaid, and other big policy victories in both blue and red states.

Amazing what happens when the issues are clear and voters are offered a direct chance to improve their lives.

This year, with Republicans dominating government on all level, progressive groups have doubled down on direct democracy to push or fix important policies that corrupt conservatives (and to be fair, many Democrats) have either ignored or openly and cravenly blocked from passing. And as we saw in the massive victory for repealing the toxic “right to work for less” law in Missouri, these are very popular and winnable campaigns.

We’ve covered the red state progressive activists that have gathered enough signatures to get Medicaid expansion on the ballot in Montana, Idaho, and Utah, and there are also a slate of people-powered initiatives that would end gerrymandering in states like Michigan, loosen marijuana laws in Missouri, and fix housing issues in California.  To learn more about the upcoming voter initiatives, Progressives Everywhere spoke with Donna De La Cruz, the communications director for the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, which helps progressives nationwide launch and strategize direct democracy.

How did a state like Missouri, which is becoming a very red state, vote so overwhelmingly for “right to work” repeal?

For some people just certain issues sort of transcend parties. I think minimum wage is one. With something like the measure in Missouri to repeal the “right to work” law, if it’s messaged right and the public is educated correctly, that makes all the difference.

CLICK HERE to donate to campaigns working hard to pass progressive ballot initiatives!

Why don’t Democrats start campaigning on obviously popular issues? If they see so many people voting to increase the minimum wage, why not champion that, use that language?

Some lawmakers definitely see how powerful ballot measures are. But I think mostly with candidates they don’t really don’t focus on the issues until they see enough polling to see where it’s going to throw their support behind it, which is, which is too bad. They just sort of wait to see how the winds are gonna blow. But I think there are just some initiatives that people just really feel that they want and need. I think the one thing about ballot initiatives is that they’re often not thought of as being partisan.

Definitely right to work was partisan, but things like minimum wage, a lot of people just see it as extra money in their paychecks and not having all the money go to big corporations.

So what does BISC do, as a centralized strategy operation for progressive ballot measures?

We track new track statewide initiatives all year long and we update the list every two weeks. We do a lot of trainings where one of our staffers will go and talk to a group, working them through how the process works. The ballot process works differently in every state.

Sometimes it has to be done through a constitutional amendment. Sometimes you can collect signatures. Sometimes it has to be referred by the legislature. So there are all these different methods and people have to know exactly what the process is. If it’s collecting signatures, they need to know just how many they’re going to need and how many they need from different counties, because you can’t get all the signatures from one area. It’s got to be statewide.

You need to know the cost, like how much manpower do you think you’re going to need? It’s making sure that they are aware that this is not something that can happen quickly in most cases. You have to try to figure out what kind of support you have for it. To see if you can win, but even before you can win, if you can even collect enough signatures to start really campaigning. So there’s a lot of those. We do a lot of those, you know, we do a lot of educational trainings along those lines.

CLICK HERE to donate to campaigns working hard to pass progressive ballot initiatives!

I know that there have been more lawsuits over ballot measures and lawmakers, especially in GOP states, often don’t comply — see Maine and Medicaid — or repeal the measures, right?

Some states are fighting back to keep measures off ballots. North Carolina [Republicans are trying to trick voters into curtailing voting rights] and Michigan’s minimum wage initiative is in court. In Massachusetts, there’s a ballot measure to overturn the state’s anti-discrimination law against transgender people. Even in DC, it’s an example of a pretty heavily Democratic City Council that is trying to overturn a ballot measure that was approved in June during the primary election that would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers. It passed pretty overwhelmingly, but the DC City Council has introduced legislation that would undo it.

Some of these measures are launched by citizens, but there are often big campaigns around them, like in Missouri. What kind of bigger groups have you seen organizing these measures?

There are a couple of climate groups out west that we’re really not a part of, like NextGen. The Restaurant Opportunities group is active in a couple of states to raise the minimum wage. Definitely some unions support paid sick leave and raising the minimum wage as well. It’s a huge variety of groups. There are some really small groups. There’s a group in Florida, we’re really helping them with restoring the right to vote for former felons. That’s Second Chances Florida. They were formed solely to get this amendment on the ballot and then get it passed in Florida.

What kind of legwork does it take to get something on the ballot? How long does it usually take?

I’ll just give you an example. In Washington state, there’s an initiative on the ballot to tax polluters who emit fossil fuels and then they would use that money for clean jobs. That has been discussed for at least at least a couple of years before they even tried to put it on the ballot. I know that it was still being discussed like two years ago, just trying to generate the support and trying to figure out the educational campaign for that. Because that’s a tough one because the average citizen probably never even thinks about a carbon tax.

And I know that with the Florida initiative, you take some polls just to see like what the sentiment is among the residents, whether or not people do agree that ex-felons should be given the right to vote. So it’s a lot of education and just research first.

CLICK HERE to donate to campaigns working hard to pass progressive ballot initiatives!

Florida has a fully Republican state government. Let’s say Democrats flip a lot of legislatures and governorships this year and win power in a lot more states. How do you see ballot measures playing a role in an environment that’s more friendly to the issues they are working to pass?

I would definitely hope that it would be seen as a good leverage tool for citizens. The teachers in Arizona that went on strike earlier this year to get a raise in pay have really banded together to get an education measure on the ballot that would tax the wealthiest people in Arizona and use that money to pay for education. I know that banding together to raise their own pay gave them this idea. But it has not been popular at all. It just survived a legal challenge this week.

So getting all those signatures to get on the ballot definitely doesn’t always mean it’s super-popular or is going to pass.

I think sometimes just because it’s on the ballot, there’s a lot of education that needs to be done. There’s a measure on the Ohio ballot that would affect nonviolent drug offenders and I think that they barely got the number of signatures that they needed to get to get on the ballot. So I think that there’s still a lot of work there.

And people think that ballot measures are just really poorly worded, which they are, and the groups don’t write the ballot language. It’s the secretary of state’s offices and sometimes lawmakers start chiming in. So sometimes it makes no sense, so even if it’s really popular and on the ballot, it can be confusing to people and it’s always the last item on a ballot. So people might have supported it had they known it or if it had a different title or was just easier to read.

CLICK HERE to donate to campaigns working hard to pass progressive ballot initiatives!

What are the kinds of ballot measures you’re seeing the most this year?

Over the last year or two, the minimum wage has still been up there, but this year, we’re seeing a lot of gerrymandering initiatives. In most instances, redistricting is only done every 10 years, so it’s really interesting to see the number of gerrymandering initiatives on there to take the power away from partisan groups and give them to an independent commission. I think that’s a really interesting one to watch.

There’s not as much paid sick leave on the ballot statewide as I think people would have hoped. And I think some people are surprised that there’s not very many gun control measures on the ballot, especially given the shooting at the high school in Florida. Our take is that it was just too quick, there wasn’t enough time for people for people to get the measures on the ballot this year.

People have been really pressuring legislators on guns — maybe they don’t realize that ballot measures can be used for even that issue.

I think more people are definitely seeing the usefulness of ballot measures. I just think sometimes it’s a daunting task, especially if we want to do it statewide. But I think it’s all about educating people and getting the word out.

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Diving deep into Obama’s endorsements

First, a big push in Ohio: Tuesday marks the final big special election before the midterms. OH-12 is another GOP district that Democrats are close to turning blue thanks to a bright young candidate and voters’ disgust with Trump’s sloppy, treasonous, batshit-insane presidency. Danny O’Connor is running a great campaign and the polls are within the margin of error. Trump even left his padded TV den to visit Ohio this weekend, so you know he’s scared of losing. Donate to Democrat Danny O’Connor here!

Now, the big news: Last week, former President Barack Obama released his first round of endorsements for local and statewide candidates. I’m not saying he’s definitely a Progressives Everywhere subscriber, but he diiid have a number of the candidates that we’ve supported on his list — including Deidre DeJear, the Democratic nominee for Iowa Secretary of State, who I just so happened to feature in last week’s edition.

OK, so Barack Obama probably isn’t reading this newsletter. But his endorsements were a very welcomed development. The former president himself admits that state and local parties withered during his time in office. Now, he’s actively working to help a bunch of Democratic candidates — but who are they? And which of them are most worth supporting with your money?

First, here are the crossover candidates who have gotten both the Progressives Everywhere and Obama bumps: DeJear (IA-SoS) (Donate Here), Stacey Abrams (GA-Gov) (Donate Here), Kathleen Clyde (OH-SoS) (Donate Here), Richard Cordray (OH-Gov) (Donate Here), Lauren Underwood (IL-14) (Donate Here), and Tina Davis (PA-State Senate) (Donate Here).

All of Obama’s state legislature choices are in legislative chambers that are either up for grabs or under a breakable GOP supermajority. There are some great congressional candidates too, but this time around, I’m going to focus on very competitive state capitol races, where donations go the furthest.

Here are the first five candidates that especially excite me, in races that could make the biggest impact.

Tammy Story (CO-SD-16): There are two reasons to support Tammy Story’s campaign for State Senate in Colorado. First, she’s an active and accomplished public school advocate who helped lead the successful recall of three conservatives who had hijacked the Jefferson County Board of Education and went to war against teachers and students. She’s also a dedicated environmentalist and devoted to ensuring equal pay for equal work.

Second, she’s running against the embodiment of the modern Republican: Tim Neville is a noxious, far-right, mean-spirited nihilist who regularly sponsors bills that would strip rights and protections from LGBTQ Coloradans and make automatic weapons even more accessible. In 2016, to promote a bill that would allow concealed carry without a permit, an insane idea already, he went and held an AR-15 giveaway. The guy is a lunatic. That the GOP holds the Colorado state senate by one seat would make ousting this psycho even sweeter.

CLICK HERE to donate to Tammy Story and all our choices via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page for Obama’s Picks

Faith Winter (CO-SD-24): Few public officials have the guts that Faith Winter displayed last year. As the #MeToo movement began to rattle entrenched power in Hollywood and Washington, Winter, a member of the Colorado House of Representatives, stood up for herself and nearly a dozen other women who were sexually harassed by State Rep. Steve Lebsock. First, she spoke out in public, then called his bluff by filing a formal complaint. That Lebsock was also a Democrat made it an even braver choice, as political parties so often try to brush their members’ sins under the rug. It was a very messy fight and Lebsock did not go quietly — he basically went nuts — but he was ultimately expelled from the legislature. The fight goes on and Winter is helping to lead the way.

She should not be defined only by her fight against sexual harassment, because Winter has a slew of other accomplishments. She helped train women to run for office through the Emerge America program, introduced Equal Pay and Paid Family Leave laws (which went down in the State Senate), advocates for affordable housing, and fights for public education.

CLICK HERE to donate to Faith Winter and all our choices via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page for Obama’s Picks
Laura Fortman (ME-SD-13): When it comes down to actually passing legislation and influencing government, Frances Perkins will forever rank as one of the most important figures in the history of the progressive movement. As FDR’s Secretary of Labor, she helped rally workers and labor unions and enacted much of the New Deal’s most important policies, operating in FDR’s long shadow. So when a politician lists Perkins as a hero, you immediately take notice.

Laura Fortman has spent her career fighting for workers and women, as the head of the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Maine Department of Labor, then later for the US Department of Labor. She also served as the head of the Frances Perkins’ Center, a museum dedicated to Perkins’ legacy. Her understanding of the complicated web of issues facing the working class makes her an ideal candidate for a state that just suffered through Gov. Paul LePage, a grumpy old bigot who would rather go to jail than expand access to healthcare.

CLICK HERE to donate to Laura Fortman and her Maine Democratic colleagues, plus all our other choices via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page for Obama’s Picks

Erica Crowley (OH-HD-26): I’ve read a lot of personal statements from candidates over the years, and generally speaking, they are rote and filled with focus-group-tested buzzwords. Not Erica Crowley’s. Her life story is incredible, from a childhood raised by drug addicts (who have since recovered) to a decorated career in the military, a law degree, and a career helping non-profits serving her community’s most vulnerable people.

She is the kind of person who should be running our government at all levels. Smart, accomplished, and empathetic, with both ideals and actionable ideas informed by lived experience. This, from her website, says it all: “I refuse to idly stand by while income inequality, access to affordable and quality healthcare, and the fight for equitable education continue to be growing issues.”

CLICK HERE to donate to Erica Crowley and all our choices via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page for Obama’s Picks

Taylor Sappington (OH-HD-94): Speaking of policy informed by experience, Taylor Sappington‘s story is also one of dire circumstances in childhood leading to empathy and vision in adulthood. Growing up in southeastern Ohio, Sappington grew up in a union family that hit rock bottom when her mom’s employer downsized. Bills went unpaid and they lost just about everything, including electricity and even their car, a key to life in rural Ohio.

Thanks to public education and then a lot of student loans, Sappington graduated college and wound up on the local city council. His platform calls for better funding for public education, increased access to healthcare, better rural infrastructure, clean elections, and renewable energy. He is the sort of candidate that could turn the tide for Democrats in rural areas that have become reflexively Republican, a local boy who understands the region and can help it navigate the changing economy.

CLICK HERE to donate to Taylor Sappington and all our choices via Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue page for Obama’s Picks