Force the Vote: Americans want a Public Option, not Medicare for All/Single Payer (Correcting Briahna Joy Gray)

TLDR: Progressives keep misinterpreting the polls. Because M4A polls well as a name, they incorrectly assume Americans want “bill H.R. 1384.” Poll specifics show that this is not the case and that Americans want a public option (not single payer). In her Current Affairs article, #ForceTheVote Proponent Briahna Joy Gray herself unwittingly cites polls that show the same.

The Force the Vote debate has taken up quite a bit of space in online progressive spheres. Even though it never went anywhere, its merits (or lack thereof) continue to be debated. However, there is one false premise that continually slips through, and this is one of the reason that many #ForceTheVote proponents are confused as to why the FTV opponents aren’t actually on board (since granting this false premise strengthens the case for FTV).

That false premise is that “America already wants single payer” (or more often stated as “America already wants Medicare for All” with the assumption that by M4A, they mean single payer). You see, the phrase “Medicare for All” polls well, so when people respond positively to it, progressives have the tendency to assume that Americans responding to polls somehow mean Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s Medicare for All bill H.R. 1384. As we will see shortly, what Americans have in mind is the existence of a government plan, plus the existence of private insurance. As we will see, once you get past mere titles and into specifics, Americans prefer a public option to single payer.

My guess is that progressives who aren’t sold on FTV (like Sam Seder, Ana Kasparian, Cenk Uygur, Ben Burgis and Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez) know this, but don’t want to burst this bubble. It feels good to believe that Americans are already on board with single payer. I’m also guessing that Democratic strategists know this (how can they not?) and realize that M4A (as in, single payer) is a losing proposition right now. So let’s take a snippet of a Current Events article from Briahna Joy Gray (one of FTV’s biggest pushers and arguably the most eloquent of the bunch). She has repeated this fallacy over and over (usually in interviews). It’s difficult to imagine that this error has not been brought to her attention.

Briahna begins by misinterpreting a Fox News Exit poll.

“Perhaps unsurprisingly, support for Medicare for All has reached historic highs during the pandemic. Even a Fox News exit poll showed that 72 percent of Americans support a single payer system, and impressively, about half of Republicans support Medicare for All.”

First off, Briahna Joy Gray is inserting the words “single payer” and “Medicare for All” The Fox News Poll she is citing said neither. For one, she is referring to this screenshot of a Fox News result where the question is about changing to a government-run healthcare plan.

However, of you visit the actual voter analysis page you can see that the full question was:

Do you favor or oppose each of the following? Changing the health care system so that any American can buy into a government-run health care plan if they want to.

In other words, this question is in regards to the public option, not single payer, as Gray incorrectly claimed.

This is probably why the article Gray linked to as her source, also states:

According to Fox News exit polls from election night, 52% of voters in Georgia want the ACA entirely or partially repealed, while 63% are in favor of “changing the healthcare system so that any American can buy into a government-run healthcare plan if they want to.”

Now onto Briahna’s next healthcare poll misinterpretation:

“But importantly for the purposes of the Dore proposition, a whopping 88 percent of Democrats support the policy. “

Here, Bri is citing a Hill-HarrisX poll which shows that overall, Americans support providing Medicare to every American. Looks great, right?

Here is how it looks in pie chart form.

However, here is how it looks when you actually break that 71% down. Only 13% support universal coverage and the abolition of private insurance. This is what people like Brihana Joy Gray, Jimmy Dore and others keep pretending to have 70% support. The overwhelming majority of that 70% are people who want universal coverage with a private supplement or universal coverage with a private opt-out.

And therein lies the rub. The majority of Americans do not want single payer (at least not yet). They want a public option.

The Kaiser Family Foundation shows that the Public Option has more Support and less resistance than “Medicare for All.”

As the K.F.F. study states:

“Senator Bernie Sanders is the candidate most trusted on health care by Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, though the Medicare-for-all plan he’s championed is significantly less popular than the “public option” approach put forward by some other candidates. Among adults overall, a narrow majority (53%) support the idea of a Medicare-for-all plan while a larger majority (65%) say they support a government-run public option that would compete with private insurance. Large majorities of Democrats support both a public option (88%) and Medicare-for-all (77%), and while most Republicans oppose both approaches to expanding coverage, more favor the public option proposal (41%) than a Medicare-for-all plan (27%).”

K.F.F. polls also show that most supporters of Medicare for All think they and their family would be allowed to keep their current health insurance plan. This further supports the argument that part of the reason Medicare for All polls so well is because the name polls well, and that removing private health insurance from the equation is a deal breaker for many supporters.

Misleading articles add to the confusion. Take this CNBC article for example:

The article falsely conflates Medicare for All with single payer.

“The vast majority of Americans, 70 percent, now support Medicare-for-all, otherwise known as single-payer health care, according to a new Reuters survey. That includes 85 percent of Democrats and 52 percent of Republicans. Only 20 percent of Americans say they outright oppose the idea.”

It’s clear from looking at the actual poll that 70% do not support single payer since most of these people are against abolishing private health insurance.

Progressives will respond with something like or “ok, but people are stuck to their private health insurance because they’ve been beaten over the head with corporate propaganda.” And that may be the case, but it doesn’t change the fact that the major premise behind FTV is simply wrong.

A majority of Americans do not favor abolishing private sector health insurance in exchange for a single government health insurance plan that covers everyone. Whether their reasoning is well-founded or not, doesn’t change the fact that this is where we are, not where people like Briahna Joy Gray and Jimmy Dore either think or pretend to think we are and continue to fool progressives into believing this false narrative.

And this changes the narrative. The selling point that most Americans want what’s actually in the Medicare for All Bill is a myth. What most Americans do apparently want, is the public option, which Joe Biden ran on.

“That’s why we need to have a national conversation”

The usual response is something about having a national conversation so we can hash this out and get Americans onboard. I agree that we on the left need to do our part in convincing fellow Americans that single payer (or at very least, a move in that direction) is in the best interest of our country.

However, statements like these imply that everyone hears the same message and even interprets said message the same way. This is simply not the case. Most Americans will tune in to their medium aka echo chamber of choice. Most Democrats will get their information from the same news anchors who trashed Medicare for All during the primaries. People on the right will get their information from right wing sources who will sell this as a Communist plot, and the attack ads will make the anti-Obamacare “death panel” ads look like solid endorsements by comparisons.

In other words, while I agree with the idea of pushing the discussion, it’s not going to have the effect online progressive seem to think it will.

Only the social media progressives, the ones who are already onboard will get their information from the sources and in the manner they assume all Americans will receive when they talk about a National conversation.

The national attention FTV proponents assume the medicare for all floor vote would have received would have been drowned out by much more exciting events, like the attack on capitol hill or hashtag Gamestock, or the rush for PlayStation 5's.

Progressives need to stop pushing the false narrative that Americans are already on board with single-payer. It’s not true, and interpreting reality through this false lens is giving online progressives a false sense of reality.



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Huxley C

Gay, Progressive, Gun owner. Concerned with people’s stubborn, personal biases and aversion to complicated information. I’m not actually Gay.