Medicare for All will be a big win for Maryland

Medicare for All will be a big win for Maryland
© Greg Nash

“The Great Society asks not how much, but how good; not only how to create wealth but how to use it; not only how fast we are going, but where we are headed.” President Lyndon Johnson spoke these words before Congress in 1965 as he outlined his plan to tackle society’s biggest, most complex problems.

Out of Johnson’s Great Society came some of America’s most progressive healthcare policies. Among them, Medicare and Medicaid, which alleviated the burden of healthcare costs from the most vulnerable, poorest, and oldest in our society while firmly positioning the Democratic party as the party of working families for a generation.

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Over 50 years later, these programs continue to provide quality, affordable healthcare to millions of Americans — yet millions more still find themselves without health insurance. Even those of us with health insurance are burdened by skyrocketing premiums, outsized deductibles, and the absurd prices of prescription drugs.

 

In the face of this ongoing health-care crisis, it’s unfortunate Americans cannot look to our federal government for solutions that rival what President Johnson proposed decades ago. Today we have a Republican president and Congress committed to putting tax cuts ahead of our healthcare needs, while working to gut much of the progress our nation has made since the Great Society was implemented.

This chaos presents an opportunity for the Democrats to reconnect with our base and continue our string of 2017 victories through 2018, but simply opposing President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rallies in Nevada amid Supreme Court flurry: 'We're gonna get Brett' Trump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Trump boosts Heller, hammers 'Wacky Jacky' opponent in Nevada MORE won’t get the job done. If Democrats want to continue rebuilding, we must get back to building broad diverse coalitions rooted in policy proposals like Medicare for All that will make life better for all Americans.

An embrace of Medicare for All gives our party the best opportunity to speak with clarity and one voice on an issue that excites our base and clearly lays out the differences between us and Republicans.

In my home state of Maryland, we will need to mobilize Democratic voters next year who sat out the last election. Our current Republican Governor won election largely due to the fact that over a hundred thousand Democratic voters who turned out in 2010 stayed home in 2014.

These voters are black, white, young and old. They are members of the middle class and the working poor, and at some point along the way our party stopped being able to reach them. These voters don’t just exist in Maryland. The same could be said of any state across the country, particularly those like Michigan and Wisconsin where Democrats came within a few thousand votes of winning and tipping the election away from President Trump.

Our party must learn from past mistakes. We must have the courage to speak to our base and mobilize them back into the fold. Medicare for All is a winning issue for Democrats to build a broad, diverse coalition of working families looking for leaders who are going to fight for them.

With Medicare for All, Democrats can say we have a plan to protect and expand healthcare coverage for the working poor and middle class while Republicans are pushing through tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. Medicare for All allows our party to speak credibly to working class families looking for relief from skyrocketing premiums, as well as to many communities of color who still lag behind whites in gaining access to care.

Medicare for All makes us the party of small businesses, because we will have a solution for the rising premiums that strain their budgets and curtail their ability to hire more workers and grow our economy. Medicare for All makes us the party of seniors, because no longer will they have to choose between food and medicine. Medicare for All makes us the party of millennials, because their healthcare won’t be dependent upon a job, freeing them to start a business, go to graduate school, or continue looking for work without the worry of if they can see a doctor were they to ever need one.

Democrats are best positioned to reclaim congressional, gubernatorial and state legislative seats next year if we have the courage to embrace our progressive roots and do as Lyndon Johnson did decades ago in offering the American people real solutions to the pain they are feeling.

Embracing Medicare for All will help ensure we win big in Maryland and across the nation next year.

Ben Jealous is the former national president & CEO of the NAACP. He is currently a Democratic candidate for Governor in Maryland where he lives with his two children. He is a partner at Kapor Capital, working as a tech investor and is a Visiting Professor at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.