(Hey 4th Berkshire district, you know what to do! - promoted by eli_beckerman)
My opponent, in a recent radio debate, exclaimed "I've been a co-sponsor of this legislation for six years. My opponent and I have the same position."
My response caught him off guard.
"In the six years that the incumbent has been co-sponsoring this legislation," I challenged, "the number of his fellow co-sponsors has plummeted to less than half of the all-time high number of co-sponsors, which was tallied in the year 2000. He has said nothing publicly in defense of medicare for all when his Democratic party leaders attempted to remove the issue from its platform. It's not a surprise that his party leaders want it removed; they are happy to accept donations from lobbyists and corporate officers who profit by keeping things just the way they are. He has not come to the defense of the legislation when well-funded opponents have spread misinformation about it. Nor has he done anything to educate his peers in the legislature to secure more co-sponsors and then actually pass the legislation. I'll provide a different kind of leadership."
My incumbent opponent did not have a response to this attack of his lackluster advocacy. His political playbook did not have a chapter for the scenario he found himself in. Radio listeners found it refreshing.
|The issue being debated in this instance was public health insurance, or single payer health care, which is on the ballot as a policy question in the 4th Berkshire District. There are other issues that are popular at the grassroots level, among both conservative or progressive constituents, that similarly stall and go nowhere in the legislature because of the dominance of corporate money in the politics of both ruling parties.
As I had said in an interview on Pittsfield Community Television last week, getting public health insurance established will be the difficult part. One we have it, the public will keep it. In other countries that have established it, it quickly disappeared as a partisan issue; public health insurance is accepted as a public infrastructure investment by conservatives, moderates, and progressives alike.
It's time for representation in Beacon Hill that does not affiliate with parties that accept the dictates of corporate money.
I might have gone on to point out that my opponent could have taken the opportunity during his six years of incumbency to educate small business owners, town administrators, and voters, who have been hurt by rising health care costs, whose private policies offer no protection from financial ruin, and every year become more expensive and shoddy. A public health insurance plan costs less, and relieves business owners, communities, and individuals of the burden of finding a private policy. Medical debts cripple our freedom to be enterprising.
Co-sponsorship is what I do on day #1 when I am inside Beacon Hill. Next comes advocacy - loud, clear, and compelling. Because the public knows that our health insurance system is second rate to other countries' public plans, because legislators are vulnerable to the kind of challenge that brought me to Beacon Hill, and because the current system is unsustainable, the number of legislative co-sponsors will grow rapidly after I enter Beacon Hill.
The typical dynamic that my Democratic Party opponent might have faced is a Republican challenger who declares that he / she is against public health insurance. In that scenario, all my incumbent had to do was to declare co-sponsorship of a bill, and that was enough. Even newspaper editors who cover politics often think that co-sponsorship is enough to define a platform issue. The Berkshire Eagle editorialized that my incumbent and I had the same position on this issue, implying that both candidates were equal on it. After my arrival on Beacon Hill they'll be proven wrong.
Party leaders allow a certain number of co-sponsors for bills that are unpopular with their donors for appearances sake. But trust me: the large contributions that insurance industry interests make to both Republican and Democratic parties assures that we will not have public health insurance like the rest of the world does until we begin voting for legislators whose political power affiliations do not accept that money. It's time for debate on health care and other issues to be expanded as our democracy is revitalized.