Summary: Western Europe and other wealthy countries are thriving with social democracy. The US is struggling with social problems and threats to our democratic integrity. A critical part of the difference is the approach to health coverage.
State Legislatures Are Torching Democracy, The New Yorker, August 6, 2022, by Jane Mayer
The vast majority of Ohio residents clearly want legislative districts that are drawn more fairly [than done by GOP legislators]. By 2015, the state’s gerrymandering problem had become so notorious that seventy-one per cent of Ohioans voted to pass an amendment to the state constitution demanding reforms. As a result, the Ohio constitution now requires that districts be shaped so that the makeup of the General Assembly is proportional to the political makeup of the state. In 2018, an even larger bipartisan majority—seventy-five per cent of Ohio voters—passed a similar resolution for the state’s congressional districts. …
This past spring, an extraordinary series of legal fights were playing out. The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the [new, still biased] map—and then struck down four more, after the Republican majority on the redistricting commission continued submitting maps that defied the spirit of the court’s orders. The chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court was herself a Republican. Russo told me, “If norms were being obeyed, we would expect that there would have been an effort to follow the first Ohio Supreme Court decision. But that simply didn’t happen.”
[Two Trump-appointed federal judges permitted] the 2022 elections to proceed with a map so rigged that Ohio’s top judicial body had rejected it as unconstitutional.
Inside the War Between Trump and His Generals, The New Yorker, August 8, 2022, by Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker
How Mark Milley and others in the Pentagon handled the national-security threat posed by their own Commander-in-Chief.
Letters from an American, August 9, 2022, by Heather Cox Richardson
[In a week with several major legislative victories] Biden said: “[D]ecades from now, people are going to look back at this week, with all we’ve passed and all we’ve moved on, that we met the moment at this inflection point in history—a moment when we bet on ourselves, believed in ourselves, and recaptured the story, the spirit, and the soul of this nation. We are the United States of America, a singular place of possibilities. … I promise you, we’re leading the world again for the next decades.”
By Jim Kahn, M.D.
I just spent two weeks in Switzerland and Germany, for the 110th anniversary of my grandfather’s opening a factory in Heilbronn. My family mostly escaped the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jews. I entered Europe easily with my new German passport, granted under a provision of the post-WWII German constitution guaranteeing those who fled and their descendants the right to German citizenship, without renouncing US citizenship. I am now of two countries, and of two democratic systems with stark differences.
In Europe I saw many benefits of strong social democracy – a free political system committed to providing sound social support to all of its residents. I used the excellent (ample, timely, clean, affordable) mass transit, both local and inter-city. There are cars, but few and no traffic jams that we saw. I noted the clean streets, and low crime permitting unlocked or minimally locked bicycles. I didn’t fear gunshots when I saw two railway employees subduing an inebriated and combative man. I saw one homeless person (actually, a beggar, unsure if he was homeless). I know from my research that there is universal coverage with a standard medical plan.
At home, I experience something quite different. Mass transit is spotty, widely used in a few cities, if ragged and poorly maintained, and sparse in other cities. People resort to cars, en masse, and hence crowded roads. The streets are often poorly maintained and dirty. The rich live in separate compounds. Guns are pervasive. As is homelessness. As is un- and under-insurance for medical care.
Most startling is continued revelations of GOP challenges to the integrity of democracy. Jane Mayer writes of how Trump tried to co-opt the military; luckily, the generals stood firm on the proper role of the military – not to defend a particular president, but to defend democracy. Susan Glasser and Peter Baker describe how Wisconsin GOP legislators used advanced filibustering techniques to create a veto-proof super-majority GOP legislature in a Dem-GOP balanced state. Then they shamelessly refused to abide by state constitutional amendments requiring fair representation. Message: in defense of GOP goals, no democratic norm need be honored. The GOP approach threatens “no democracy”. Rising GOP stars articulate visions of dictatorship.
It was a very good week for Joe Biden and the Dems; important legislation passed with minimal or no GOP support. Including a rebranded omnibus bill with climate action, modest support for health (ACA subsidies and a foot in the door on Medicare drug price negotiations), and modest tax increases for the wealthy and corporations. Will this legislative success boost Dem prospects in 2022 and 2024? Maybe.
Single payer is a linchpin of thriving social democracy. Every European country provides universal health coverage with a standard plan, with a single payer or heavily regulated not-for-profit private insurer system. This approach is efficient, health-improving, and social cohesion-enhancing. Here in the US, 73% of young people support it alongside other progressive policies.
Let’s stave off the end of democracy, and also achieve the universal medical coverage that will solidify our version of social democracy for decades and generations to come.