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Hang Tough, Bernie!

[ Posted Wednesday, October 27th, 2021 – 15:41 UTC ]

I don't know about any of the rest of you, but at this point I'm getting pretty sick and tired of reading the output of the rumor-mill each morning. Especially since most of the rumors seem to have come true, and each and every one of them involves yet another ambitious campaign promise made by Joe Biden which has now fallen by the wayside solely because Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin keep shifting their ideological demands about what agenda items are worthy for inclusion in what was supposed to be the flagship of Biden's entire domestic legacy. That flagship has shrunk from being a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to now more resembling a medium-sized Coast Guard cutter. Don't get me wrong, a Coast Guard cutter is a fine ship and all, but it (obviously) can do far less than a flattop.

Throughout it all -- and contrary to many media narratives -- the progressive faction has compromised again and again. One side of this negotiation has taken the "my way or the highway" approach, and it sure ain't those wild-eyed radicals on the left. Which, by the way, includes Mr. Moderate himself, Joe Biden. They've taken it on the chin over and over again, while Manchin and Sinema don't seem to have budged one inch from their initial demands. So please, when all the finger-pointing happens, let's make sure that the "my way or the highway" one is pointed in the right direction.

In fact, the only demand that progressives have made (and studiously kept) is that there will be no bipartisan infrastructure bill placed on Joe Biden's desk unless and until the Build Back Better bill passes the Senate -- so the House can vote on both bills at the same time. This leverage was pretty obviously absolutely necessary since Manchin and Sinema would (again, pretty obviously) have refused to even negotiate if their pet project bill had already passed into law.

Senator Bernie Sanders, also throughout it all, has fought tooth and nail for his highest priority -- one of the few progressive ideas contained within the bill that Biden didn't specifically campaign on. Adding vision, hearing, and dental coverage to Medicare would be the most historic expansion of the program in a generation. And Bernie knows full well how popular it would be with the public, which is why he has adamantly refused to sign off on any bill that doesn't include it. It was rumored over the past couple of days that it might be out altogether, but Bernie held firm and it now seems to be back in (although, like every other decent idea contained within the bill, it has had to be cut to the bone to satisfy Manchin and Sinema's increasingly-unreasonable demands).

Good for Bernie! Sanders will get not only the lion's share of the credit if it does become reality, but in fact all of the credit. And tens of millions of Americans will benefit from their new "Berniecare" coverage. Even if it is weak and has to be strengthened later on by future Congresses.

Bernie is right on the basics -- there is simply no reason for the American medical system to treat dental, hearing, and vision as somehow "not basic health care." The idea is ludicrous. If your teeth aren't healthy, then you aren't healthy. If you can't see straight or hear anything, then it is because you have health problems. So why shouldn't your health insurance policy cover it? Why is some supplemental policy even necessary? There is no real answer to that, except maybe: "We've always done it like that." Which is just not good enough, if we have the opportunity to change it forever.

Bernie is right on the politics of it, too. This would be wildly popular with seniors. You know -- the demographic which votes more reliably than every other demographic? It's pretty impossible to make the political argument against expanding Medicare to include teeth, ears, and eyes. The only really valid argument to make is pretty indefensible, after all: "We have to protect the private health insurance industry's ability to continue to make obscene profits."

Bernie is also right on the politics of digging in his heels right now. Manchin and Sinema seem bent on turning "Build Back Better" into "Build Back Mediocre." Someone should really ask them how that turned out for Obamacare (still waiting on that public option...), or the Great Recession stimulus package. If Medicare expansion gets tossed overboard, there won't be a whole lot left to praise in the package, and the list of things which Manchin and Sinema personally rejected will be far longer than what did make it past their inscrutable criteria. The Medicare vision/dental/hearing expansion is one of the few Build Back Better agenda items that was beginning to be understood by a large portion of the public, so to hear it was yanked would have spread the disappointment wider than cutting one of the more obscure ideas.

So I say: "Hang tough, Bernie!" If the corporate-owned Democrats can draw multiple red lines and refuse to budge on any of them, then progressives should be able to draw at least one big one in return. Since this is Bernie's brainchild anyway, he has every reason to fight for it. And since he chairs the Senate budget-writing committee, his voice should at least have equal weight as that of the two stumbling blocks.

Every morning it seems like I wake up and read about more transformational progressive program ideas which have been shot down by either Manchin or Sinema. And each and every time, progressives have had to grit their teeth and accept it in the hopes of getting anything positive done. The only thing they've truly pushed back on is the timing of their vote for the companion infrastructure bill -- on just about everything else, they've not only been (reluctantly) willing to compromise, but they have wound up with the short end of each and every stick. So it's good to see Bernie Sanders pushing back on one of the biggest and most transformational ideas of all. And each morning that I wake up without having to read the Medicare expansion has been tossed overboard, I thank Bernie Sanders for fighting so hard to keep it.


[Program Note: There will most likely be no new column tomorrow, sorry. First, I have an appointment to get my (Moderna) booster shot, so that takes a chunk of time out of the day. But more importantly, I will be scooping and carving pumpkins, in preparation for Friday's spooktacular column. So there's that to look forward to....]

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


29 Comments on “Hang Tough, Bernie!”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    A couple thoughts ...

    I keep thinking back to the fact that the 2020 election was so damned close and that 25,000 votes here and there and Trump would have been re-elected. That doesn't sound like a progressive country to me.

    I love Bernie Sanders. He is on the right side of the basics and the politics IF his basics and politics can bring along the vast majority of voters in enough states to change the make-up of both houses of Congress.

    And each and every time, progressives have had to grit their teeth and accept it in the hopes of getting anything positive done.

    It looks like progressives are going to have to keep gritting their teeth and and keep hoping and fighting to get ANYTHING positive done.

    And, I hope they don't sacrifice the "bipartisan infrastructure bill' on the alter of EON. Ahem.

    Because passing the infrastructure bill and/or the 'build back better' bill will definitely be a step in the right direction - on the basics and on the politics - for a country that wishes to make progress.

    And, there's the rub. What kind of a country do you have, at the moment. What kind of a country will you have when the midterms roll around.

    And, the most important question of all - how successfully can Democrats persuade voters that what they have done will be beneficial for America and Americans while Republicans are doing everything to limit what can be done to strengthen families and the economy.

    Of course, it wouldn't hurt to keep pointing out how the Republican cult of economic failure is alive and well and stunting the growth of the economy and country at every turn. This, in fact, may be THE most important point Democrats can make. Though, I haven't seen much of this argument over the course of the last many decades, so ...

    Anyways, looking forward to the pumpkins! :)

  2. [2] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    If one defines "Progressive country" as only as progressive as it's two recalcitrant DINOs are, we are not a progressive country.

    If one counts how overwhelmingly popular progressive policies are with the Murican public, then we are.

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why doesn't that popular support translate into votes?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... enough votes, that is, to pass progressive legislation without having to scale it down to the bare bones?

  5. [5] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    I would have avoided the naval comparison, it is backwards, cutters are nimble things that can do and go far more places than a long as the metric is anything other than carpet bombing a small country into submission.

    The cost of running a cutter is also less taxing than that of a carrier.

    Carriers require battle groups to protect them, it costs about 6 million dollars a day to operate a strike group. Cutters cost $75k to $100k to operate depending on size and mission, they require no external battle group, they can chase down drug runners, human smugglers, rescue people, and pull into shallow ports that carriers cannot.

    If I was going to stick with this analogy I would have put the original bill and the asks, as the cutter, It was designed to be nimble, quick and attack multiple problems, sure it was costly, but then again the USCG is undergoing a very costly upgrade program due to lack of timely upgrades.

    DINO Manchin and SheNaw Sinema (she seems to be proving she should not have been exposed to power in Washington) have determined that the bill should be unpaid for and not do very much, just to keep the GOPers happy... just like a carrier.

    With a carrier, it's expensive, can't operate on it's own, and if a couple of the supports break it's not viable, carriers are only good at three things: being really expensive vanity exhibits, bombing small countries into oblivion, and showing how big a nations phallus is.

    Hope you can see why I think it is backwards.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Very nice and apt analogy, gt, and very well stated!

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    ... I mean your forward-thinking analogy.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Since there won't be a column tomorrow, let's think about what our theme for Sunday night will be ...

    How about we each pick a city and highlight bands from that city?

    For my part, I pick Vancouver, baby! Especially, Vancouver Rock Bands from the 60s to 80s

  9. [9] 
    John M wrote:

    [3] Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "Why doesn't that popular support translate into votes?"

    [4] Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "... enough votes, that is, to pass progressive legislation without having to scale it down to the bare bones?"

    The easy answer to that Elizabeth is because that is not how our system was deliberately designed. Unlike yours in Canada, or the U.K.

    Only white men with property were originally allowed to make decisions, popular will was looked at in fear.

    The Senate is set up to represent the states, NOT the people.

    Popular support only translates into enough votes in a parliamentary system, where the government lives or falls as a whole based on the overall vote total, and not on individuals each with their own power base.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Yeah, I have some understanding of how your Republic works. Which is quite unlike a parliamentary system such as what we endure in Canada.

    But, I wasn't using popular support in the strictest sense of the phrase. MtnCaddy used popular to indicate how well Biden's agenda was resonating with the American people, whether they reside in blue, red or purple states.

    So, let me re-phrase the question ...

    If your country is so progressive and progressive policies so popular, then why is it that more progressives aren't elected to both houses of Congress and, especially, in numbers that give you a filibuster-proof US Senate?

    The answer is easy, I suppose - your country isn't that progressive and Dems don't know how to promote and sell policies that are in the best interests of everyone.

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    If you don't my theme for Sunday night(s) will be to interupt your music night until you do.

    I hope you're joking.

  12. [12] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    <Still waiting for you to get Nader mentioning One Demand.

    How do you propose that I do that?

  13. [13] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Still waiting for you to get Nader mentioning One Demand.

    How do you propose I do that? I'm willing to do a lot in order for you not to interrupt our music nights.

  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Could you provide that link again, please.

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Thanks, Don ... I'm off to work now but, I will get back you tonight on this.

  16. [16] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    I will just point out that a parliamentary system doesn't necessarily mean equal representation, if an MP can be elected with a plurality, rather than a true majority, and if there is no proportional representation. A candidate who gets 34% of the vote may win if two opponents each get 33%, but has still been elected by only 34% of the electorate. And this can be (and has been) true of many constituencies in a general election, so that a large parliamentary majority may represent far less than half the electorate.

  17. [17] 
    John M wrote:

    [12] Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "If your country is so progressive and progressive policies so popular, then why is it that more progressives aren't elected to both houses of Congress and, especially, in numbers that give you a filibuster-proof US Senate?

    The answer is easy, I suppose - your country isn't that progressive and Dems don't know how to promote and sell policies that are in the best interests of everyone."

    Well my answers would be:

    1) Gun control has overwhelming support too, but goes nowhere, because elected officials pay more attention to lobbyists who throw money at them, than to constituents who only write them letters.

    2) Getting a filibuster proof majority in the Senate is pretty much impossible, when the 40 million people of California have the same number of Senators as the 500 thousand people of Wyoming. So it doesn't really matter how progressive the country is overall. When.....

    3) You can scare and convince a few thousand in a state like Wyoming about big old bad "socialism" boogeyman.

  18. [18] 
    John M wrote:

    Not to mention gerrymandering, politicians who let things go their head after they get elected, and those that lose the principles they ran on and succumb to corruption or the temptation of abandoning public service for accumulating personal worth instead after getting into office. ETC.

  19. [19] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    John M-

    I would say gun control has more to do with the rural/urban divide than lobbying. Your point #2 covering quite nicely even down to the state level. More people may support gun control but they are concentrated in cities, where rural has more representatives against it...

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    I listened from the beginning until the end of the One Demand discussion and read your comment. And, I read your comment from the previous show.

    You're right, they gave 'One Demand' pretty short shrift in the discussion. I'm thinking if they bring it up then they should address all of it. The guest said he didn't think it would work because the major parties don't have a problem with getting a lot of small donors and didn't elaborate further.

    I don't think any of them showed any understanding of what One Demand is all about. So, I think you just need to keep listening and commenting but try to change up the way you talk about it. For me, I suffer from the MEGO factor when too many numbers are cited. You know, mine eyes glaze over! So, I would use less numbers and more philosphy in your advocating for One Demand. Maybe talk more about campaign financing (I know, I know, I know what you think about THAT!)

    In any event, you have gotten Nader's attention - I think you can keep it and move the discussion along if you keep at it and try coming at it from different angles so it doesn't sound like you're just repeating yourself. Best of luck - it's a tough problem. Mostly because it involves getting voters, even 10% of them, to, well, get involved!



  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Damned if you do, damed if you don't!

    I still think you should keep at it, now that you have Nader's attention ...

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Complimenting Nader a bit - not over the top or anything - can't hurt!

  23. [23] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:



    Why doesn't that popular support translate into enough votes, that is, to pass progressive legislation without having to scale it down to the bare bones?

    Let's add, why are Democrats apparently about to snatch DEFEAT from the jaws of VICTORY, even though not passing Bernie's package (favored by Repugs, too) will likely and deservedly cost them Congress next year?

    ELIZABETH, I've been trying to figure this out for the four decades since The American Dream
    got infected by Reaganism. I never understood why Dims didn't adopt no-brainer
    arguments against starving our government in order to cut taxes for those who don't need tax cuts. IMO, opposing trading "The American Dream --for ALL" for "No Millionaire Left Behind" would have been easy and popular sale, if only establishment Dems wanted to.

    ALAS, I've concluded that the Party of F.D.R.'s inability to message for, campaign on and thence to actually represent the interests of ALL Americans is because Establishment Democrats* are as owned by Murica's Ownership Class as are the Repugs.

    Greed for ever more riches is common across the political spectrum, and until Establishment Democrats prove otherwise (allowing Bernie's plan to pass) they're posers, quite happy to let us plebes fight over social issues while they keep raking in the money.

    *Establishment Democrats does not mean all Democrats, Don Harris. Saying that Bernie/AOC are no better than Joe Manchin/Establishment Dims, who are no better than #MoscowMitch/Repugs is nonsense. Even if the social justice differences

  24. [24] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    ... between the two parties didn't matter, do you really believe Al Gore would have lied us into invading Iraq as Dubya did? And that it doesn't matter that Dubya therefore killed a million Iraqis?

    OD sucks. Since you are trying to persuade us, failing to address the problems we point out is a nonsense strategy. What don't you understand about "engaging?" Saying stupid shit "Dims=Repugs" and name calling isn't the way you'll get any better results around here, if that's what you want.

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Are you talkin' to me?


  26. [26] 
    Kick wrote:


    It's pretty impossible to make the political argument against expanding Medicare to include teeth, ears, and eyes.

    But what about my hair. ;)

  27. [27] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller

    Why doesn't that popular support translate into votes?

    * Culture wars
    * Snowflakes/grievance
    * Bullshit artists
    * Gullible people

  28. [28] 
    Kick wrote:

    Don Harris

    Still trying to put lipstick on the defecating pig?

    More projection from the defecating pig who shits repeatedly on his chosen messenger.

    It doesn't get much ignorant than that. :)

  29. [29] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Thought so. :)

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