Health care is a basic human right and the fight for universal coverage is in DFA’s roots. As Governor of Vermont, Howard Dean significantly expanded Vermont’s Dr. Dynasaur health care program to ensure that every child in Vermont can receive care. To this day, the program provides near universal health care of Vermont’s children with an uninsured rate of 2.4 percent. As a doctor, it was his passion for health care that inspired him to run for President in 2004, citing a desire to bring universal health care to the country.
After Howard Dean’s bid for the presidency, Democracy for America has remained committed to bringing universal health care to the United States. Throughout 2009 and early 2010, DFA members relentlessly pursued the public option as a key component of the Affordable Care Act, with more than 400,000 of us signing a petition to Congress, making calls and holding face-to-face meetings with representatives.
Today, the Affordable Care Act is a much needed step in reforming our health care system. However, there is much more work to be done. Insurance companies have no real competition, and thus no incentive to lower costs. To finish the job, we must expand Medicare for all.
Medicare works. It delivers quality health care to 40 million Americans over the age of 65 and costs less than private health insurance. It is good policy and it is good politics. Medicare is extraordinarily popular with the public. Allowing all Americans under the age of 65 to buy into Medicare would do more to reform the healthcare system and push down costs than anything else.
Democracy for America’s commitment to civil rights is one of our core principles. In 2000, under Governor Howard Dean, Vermont became the first state in the country to grant gay and lesbian couples civil unions. By current standards, we recognize civil unions are not equal to marriage, but this was a historic step in the equality movement in our country.
Since DFA’s founding we have remained committed to the fight for marriage equality. In 2009, we helped overturn Governor Jim Douglas’ veto of Vermont’s marriage equality bill and fought alongside marriage equality advocates in Maine to protect their marriage bill.
In 2012, we were a part of a strong coalition of grassroots activists which led marriage equality to victory in all four of the states that brought the question before voters. These historic victories marked the first time marriage equality won at theballot box. DFA will not stop until all citizens can share in equality.
When Governor Howard Dean ran for president in 2004, the campaign slogan was “you have the power!” and we continue this grassroots tradition at DFA today. It is our mission to use the power of the grassroots to change the Democratic Party and our country from the bottom up.
The best way we can level the playing field of the political process is to get big money and special interests out of politics. Unfortunately, Citizens United creates huge opportunities for secret special interests to drown out the participation of individual citizens. DFA has partnered with Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ted Deutch to build support for their OCCUPIED amendment, which would overturn Citizens United. We also organized Attorneys General in 23 states to sign on to an amicus brief in support of Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock’s challenge to the 2010 Supreme Court decision.
Looking to the future we will continue to build upon grassroots and bi-partisan support for overturning Citizens United and reforming our political process. When we end unchecked corporate political spending, we can truly celebrate “you have the power!”
Strengthening the Middle Class
Since our founding, Democracy for America has long fought for a robust middle class. For our country to prosper, we must have a progressive tax system that allows for investment in our economy and supports middle income earners.
The backbone of a strong middle class is Social Security, our nation’s most successful social program. We have long fought to protect and strengthen Social Security, starting in 2005 with our fight against President George W. Bush’s unpopular plan to privatize it. In 2011, our members organized to make sure that Social Security would be there for decades to come, pressuring Congress to scrap the payroll tax cap.
We’ve not only fought to make sure all Americans can retire with dignity, but also for all Americans to have the opportunity to prosper throughout their careers. The middle class deserves a progressive tax code that gives cuts to those who need it most, but makes sure America’s wealthiest pay their fair share and we can invest in future generations. In 2010, we fought against the president’s compromise to extend the Bush Tax cuts, and we are currently fighting to let the Bush Tax Cuts expire.
We will continue to work for policies that help our economy grow from the middle out, not the top down.