News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.

Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.

East Bay DSA

November 09, 2019

How Medicare for All will kneecap the alt-right

By Craig Johnson

Medicare for All would drastically improve the lives of millions of people in the United States in obvious and tangible ways. It would mean paying far less for healthcare, having less stress about following through with important medical procedures, and never deciding not to call an ambulance because you can’t afford it. As a healthcare policy it’s so obvious that almost every other economically prosperous country in the world uses a similar model. But Medicare for All has another important potential benefit: it would undermine the alt-right’s ability to remake American politics.

The term ‘alt-right’ was popularized as the name of a 2010 online journal founded by would-be fascist intellectual and movement leader Richard Spencer, and has since come to describe people and political tendencies from the Proud Boys, a fascist street gang, to Steve Bannon, who as President Trump’s Chief of Staff was briefly one of the most powerful people in the world. Mostly but not exclusively composed of white men, the alt-right demographically resembles the conservative movements it criticizes for being weak and ineffective. Like all fascist movements before it, the alt-right thrives on recruiting people who, though privileged by their race, gender, and other social positions, feel themselves to be losing those privileges, to be socially or economically backsliding. Anxieties about losing money and status are at the heart of the alt-right’s ability to recruit new followers or advance their agenda. 

Medicare for All will make it harder for the alt-right to build power by significantly alleviating these social and economic anxieties. Fascism appeals to people not just because of their hate, but because they face actual problems which fascism promises to address. Fascist governments have historically provided for those residents they consider to be actual people, creating pension systems, providing healthcare, and other social benefits which we lack in our democracy. We can’t answer these promises of a better world for some with the neoliberal refrain that there is nothing to be done — Margaret Thatcher’s classic slogan that “there is no alternative.” Fascism’s opponents will win only if they offer a real alternative.

Fascism isn’t just nostalgia for old oppressions or anxieties about the rising power of people of color or women. It is a radical, disturbingly transformative vision of a new world full of new people: a society filled with violent men, subordinate women, and divided nations. Fascists want to remake national politics, our imagination of what the world can be, and our definitions of who belongs and who doesn’t. The threat they pose is different from that posed by conservatives who want to turn back the clock. Fascism is about a vision for the future.

If we want to defeat fascism, we need to offer a different, better vision of what the world can be. Fascism can’t be defeated with the kind of “sensible” or “pragmatic” policy proposals favored by liberals. The only way to prevent the alt-right from continuing to grow and influence our nation and our national conversation is to beat it at its own game, by offering a transformative and revolutionary politics that will inspire people to build a new world. Freeing everyone in the United States of fear that they might suffer or die because they are not rich enough to afford medical coverage is exactly the kind of radical, unapologetic demand we need to advance to take over the national conversation and start to build a more just society. Along with other transformative demands such debt cancellation, free public college, and a Green New Deal, Medicare for All holds out the promise of a better kind of society: one based on solidarity and abundance for all rather than division and resentment.