As I wrote 25 months ago, Donald Trump ran for president in 2016 as a blatant plagiarist, lifting entire campaign planks from Bernie Sanders while combining them with a ramped-up version of Ron Paul’s right wing isolationism.
The COVID-19 pandemic presents the healthcare system of the United States with two contradictions that it has never encountered simultaneously in its history.
First, the pandemic disproves the entire proposition of the Invisible Hand’s divine providence. For half a century, free market ideologues and economists have sworn religious fealty to the law of supply and demand contra the logic of public infrastructure stockpiling, centralized planning, and anything remotely closed to command-and-control economics on the part of the state. It stands to reason that the shortage of protective accessories, medical technology, and hospital facilities would be solved overnight based on what the free market gurus have proselytized.
Second, the health insurance system and our method of paying for services by doctors has been tricked out unto the last possible pony in the paddock. Industry specialists have told me several times over the years that, following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, there is quite literally nothing left to do in order to sustain the laissez-faire ordering of human medical service delivery.
COVID-19 offers both an electoral politics base and superstructure a moment of crisis that could be cynically turned by President Donald Trump into one of the most dramatic course reversals in recent American history. The Republican Party has now spent a decade rabidly plotting the defenestration of the President Obama’s signature healthcare policy. They also have witnessed in the past five years a loudmouthed vulgarian who parachuted directly into the Oval Office without ever even doing a day’s service on the PTA take over their organization in one fell swoop.
Would a Trump single-payer healthcare system be racist, xenophobic, and sexist beyond anything we can imagine? It does not seem inconceivable that he would bar any public funding of abortion care and contraception, transgender medicine, or perhaps encode into the DNA of such a project nativist statutes that would set back the undocumented labor movement half a century. He might even pander so shamelessly to his Evangelical Christian voters by including within the menu of healthcare services quackery like “ex-gay conversion therapy,” which boils down to child torture of queer minors, and prohibition on healthcare professionals instructing patients in any sort of prophylactics besides “abstinence only.”
Let’s get over Bernie Sanders, he is done and the future of his three Munchkin cults, DSA, Our Revolution, and the remainders of the presidential campaign, remains extremely ambiguous. It seems obvious we are now headed into another season of St. Bernard barnstorming on behalf of the presumptive nominee, which should be even more painful to watch on rerun. He’s quite literally dying on screen at this point and it is a miserable demise to behold.
Could the rather sizable base of support for single payer healthcare in this country (by all survey measures more than half the total electorate regardless of political party registration) rip the issue from Trump’s claws and convert it into a single-payer healthcare system that improves upon and revivifies our existing Medicare system? In the 1930s, after running on a presidential platform advocating free trade, reduction of government staffing, cutting taxes, and an open alliance with the white nationalist Southern Democrats, Franklin Roosevelt was compelled by a tremendous social movement to reverse course and create the modern American welfare state as it was known for the next prosperous four decades. The challenge presented by mandatory social distancing, quarantines, and isolation challenges activists and organizers to mobilize in novel ways we may not have conceptually developed yet.
But it was exactly that kind of uncharted territory that defined the geography upon which the New Deal and its progeny were constructed. We are therefore compelled to a radical imagination wherein we envision new vistas of solidarity and human emancipation.