US – Politics – Bernie Sanders Is Not Only The Conscience of America, But Someone Who Understands Practical Reform – 28 June 2012

Vintage Bernie. Love it. Senator Sanders shows, in these remarks, why he remains the voice of America’s conscience.

Can I draw your attention to this part of his comments, though? “In my view, while the Affordable Care Act is an important step in the right direction and I am glad that the Supreme Court upheld it, we ultimately need to do better.” Back in 2009 when the debates were going on about health care reform, Sanders aligned himself with a group in Congress determined to push a single-payer system despite the fact that no one could get the votes for that arrangement. Living in Canada as I do, and knowing the warm regard most Canadians have for their single-payer system, I said then as I say now that it is understandable Sanders would favour a similar system for the US. But I thought he was being a bit purist to insist on single-payer when he didn’t have the votes lined up for it.

Apparently I was wrong, because Sanders is saying here “the Affordable Care Act is an important step in the right direction”. That, as I understand it, is also Barack Obama’s view. Obama never said the health care reforms he proposed were the best America could do. He said it was the best reform he could get passed in Congress. He also set basic litmus tests for whether a specific reform could be considered a “step in the right direction”, namely, that health care costs have to be lowered and more people have to be covered under the new system than under the previous system. Here, Sanders is stating he agrees that this is what the Affordable Care Act does.

I’ve always respected the political views of Bernie Sanders, but this statement of his makes it clear I misjudged him even making the relatively mild criticisms I made of him in 2009. He does understand that there are “steps in the right direction” that are not, in themselves, perfect solutions. He still wants to move towards more perfect solutions, and I commend him for that, but he is – mercifully – no purist. Those interested in real social change would do well to note his example.

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