In an exclusive interview with Shareblue Media, the New Jersey senator talks about how he and his fellow Democrats are fighting to make health care a civil right.
The Republican Party has fallen into disarray and confusion in the wake of their dramatic failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act in July. But the experience has only emboldened Democrats, who are now ready to take the next step and fight for fully universal health care.
“Health care goes to the core of our ideals as a nation,” said New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker, in an exclusive interview with Shareblue Media. “You can’t have life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without health care.”
That’s why Booker has joined a growing list of Democrats who support the increasingly popular “Medicare for All” bill to reform health care. Generations of Democrats have pushed for universal single payer, and the bill introduced by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders — who is also a longtime advocate — has attracted several Democratic cosponsors.
“You have so many Americans who are shackled to fear, to worry, imprisoned by illnesses that could’ve been prevented had they had abundant access to preventative care and treatment,” Booker told Shareblue Media. He also recently penned an article at Medium proclaiming health care a “civil right” and likening it to the struggle of Black leaders in the 1960s.
“Just like people who fought for access to the ballot, or access to civil rights, this is really in line with the emboldening of the idea of what it means to be an American,” he said.
The system Booker and others are fighting for would require a single, public insurer to cover everyone’s medical bills, much like Medicare and Medicaid already do for subsets of the population. While there are many logistical challenges to solve before it would work here, the system is broadly popular and successful in other countries and actually saves money.
Asked what progressives can do to help build a coalition and momentum for single payer, Booker said to learn from the example of marriage equality.
“So many people said it was impossible, or years and years off,” he recalled, “but activists in every state of the nation, from putting it on ballot initiatives, to fighting it out in the courts, to people in sectors ranging from business to entertainment to the arts — people really began to elevate consciousness, and helped to see that this was an issue of basic human dignity and human decency.”
Booker dismissed the media narrative that Democrats were becoming the party of anti-Trump and nothing else, calling it “simplistic and wrong.”
“Democrats have tons of ideas that are functional and practical,” he declared.
“To me, this is not about a party that’s against Trump,” said Booker. “Clearly we are that, but that’s not the essence of who we are. We’re the party of Medicaid, of Medicare, of civil rights. We’re the party of worker’s rights. We’re the party of we, and not the party of me. We’re the party of inclusion, not the party of exclusion.”
“And ultimately,” he continued, “we’re the party that is going to make America be America for everyone.”
When prompted about the latest Republican bill to gut Obamacare and asked how it compares to the bills that failed in the Senate, Booker warned, “From what I’m seeing, it’s worse.” He described the new GOP health care push as “craven and cruel.”
“We can’t sleep on this fight,” he warned, adding, “We’ve shown that we can be successful if we’re active, if we’re engaged.”
Booker’s passion for universal health care is an affirmation of the Democratic Party’s commitment to the wellbeing of all Americans.
And his determination brings hope that, once our nation moves beyond the tragic circus of Trump and the GOP, there will be new life and compassion in public policy.