2020 Democrats

Bernie strikes familiar notes on ‘Medicare For All’

Gage Skidmore

Senator Bernie Sanders speaking with supporters at a campaign rally for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at Central High School in Phoenix, Arizona November 6, 2016

WASHINGTON — Bernie Sanders’s big pitch for “Medicare For All” featured the familiar argument that the Vermont senator has long made for universal single payer health with some new sarcastic wrinkles and an ever so slight jab towards former Vice President Joe Biden.

Moving away from the populist trappings of the campaign trail, Sanders spoke in an auditorium with the standard political backdrop of a dozen American flags in front of blue curtain. Speaking from prepared remarks with his left hand gripping the podium and his right gesticulating, Sanders delivered much the same argument that catapulted him to national prominence during the 2016 presidential election.

The Vermont senator was more animated than usual when he argued that it was hypocritical for politicians to complain about the cost in taxes for “Medicare For All” while ignoring the savings in eliminating insurance premiums. “Now my Republicans friends and some others seem to think American people hate paying taxes but love paying insurance premiums,” said Sanders. He then imitated a man opening his mail at home. “Oh my god dear the insurance premium is here. Such a wonderful day, let’s celebrate! Another $2,000 a month.” The “some other” was a veiled shot at Biden who has been taking shots at his proposals and Sanders has been firing back. In contrast, the Vermonter has ignored other Democratic contenders like former Maryland congressman John Delaney and Colorado Senator Michael Bennet who have been criticizing Sanders as too left wing.

Sanders added a new flourish and called on “every Democratic candidate in this election to join me in rejecting money from the insurance and drug industries.” As previewed in a press release earlier in the day, Sanders defined this as refusing donations of $200 from lobbyists, executives and political action committees. Sanders laid the gauntlet down in his insistence that “candidates who are not willing to take that pledge should explain to the American people why those corporate interests believe their campaigns are a good investment.”

However, despite these additions, much of the speech was well-trodden ground for Sanders. Although he neglected familiar bromides about the size of his average donation, many excerpts could have come from the rally speeches that were a trademark of his 2016 campaign. It was a new backdrop but a familiar candidate reiterating the thesis he has spent his entire political career outlining. In a room of college students wearing Sanders t-shirts, this was enough for him to earn a rousing standing ovation. The question is: will it be enough to best the field of nearly two-dozen Democrats.

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