Bernie Sanders: Incrementalist

What’s come over Bernie Sanders? He just wants to make progress.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is pushing, not for Medicare for All, but for Medicare for More. He’s championing legislation, which could be introduced in April, to lower the eligibility age for Medicare from 65 to 60, to expand coverage to things like hearing aids, eye glasses and dental care, and to give the government authority to negotiate drug prices for the program.

If Sanders’ proposal is adopted, it would expand coverage to 23 million more Americans, a big increase from the 60 million currently covered. It would also be popular, Even 69% of Republicans favor lowering the eligibility age all the way down to 50 — but Sanders wouldn’t go that far. He appears to be aiming not at pie in the sky, but at something that could get 50 votes in the Senate, which means it has to pass muster with moderates like Sen. Joe Manchin (D- West Virginia).

The American Hospital Association and the drug manufacturers are adamantly opposed to all this, which is not a reason to do it, just a big plus.

And the drug negotiation proposal was something Pres. Trump talked about, but never acted on, so it qualifies as a bipartisan idea. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it could save around $450 billion over ten years and help pay for the eligibility expansion.

Bernie Sanders is acting like a statesman.

Since Joe Biden has taken office, Sanders has done well. He has apparently decided not to be a hard left fly in the ointment, but rather a team player, pushing the envelope but not breaking it. As a result, he’s apt to make a lot of important incremental progress for the people he cares about. Had he remained uncompromising and insistent on getting everything he wants, they would have ended up with nothing.

Sanders could have gone another way. With no margin to spare in the Senate, any senator could be the deal breaker. Sanders could have simply held out and refused to vote for any package that didn’t include Medicare for All or other far left proposals. That would have resulted in Manchin, and probably other moderates, digging in their heels. The result would have been deadlock.

The apparent decision by Sanders to get what he can speaks well of him as a politician and a human being. When I call him an “incrementalist” I mean it as a compliment. But, if you don’t like that term here’s another word: statesman.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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