As a genuine outpouring of bipartisan sadness attends the passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings (D-Md) – laid to rest in Baltimore on 25 October – perhaps this is the proper time for America to address the number one healthcare issue confronting its citizenry in this its 243rd year. 

Partisan rancor grows more heated with each passing day, starting in the embattled White House where Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham defended the president’s tweet attacking his critics as “human scum”.  “People Who Don’t Like Trump ‘Deserve’ To Be Called Scum.”

Trump followers and haters alike have long since come to define our national interests in more apocalyptic terms even as a crowded field of Democratic hopefuls searches for supporters in the run up to the 2020 election.

As I take in these troubling symptoms, I can’t help but recall my travels to Rwanda this past June (2019) where the central East African nation was commemorating the 25th anniversary of its 1994 genocide during which one million people were slaughtered in a scant three months time.

Travel is almost always instructive, not just for the perspective one gains IN another place, but FROM that distance as well.

At the Genocide Museum in Kigali, we learned that part of the run up to the Rwandan apocalypse was the belittling, dehumanizing language the majority Hutus used to describe the minority Tutsis, primarily referring to them as “cockroaches” which needed to be exterminated.

Now, as the field of Democratic candidates makes the rounds and states its platform prescriptions, there must be an eye kept on the settlement after the vote. To every candidate it must be said, do not conflate your disagreement with or dislike for one man, the president, with the drive of many men who saw in President Trump the embodiment of their own disaffection.

Accordingly, Democrats have to give the angry Trump followers and fence-sitting independents a rational alternative, rather than a Daddy or Mommy Knows Best choice that imposes its judgement from upon high.

To many, Trump is unqualified and a dark stain on the fabric of American exceptionalism. But the impulse of his voters to elect him, by and large, was not.

President Trump was elected in 2016 in large part by a group of people who felt victimized by globalization and threatened by immigration, abandoned by the politicians and betrayed by foreign-policy elites.

They did and continue to feel abandoned by the main stream elite and saw in Mr. Trump the only means they had left to record that disapproval. So you can’t now just dismiss Trump as a charlatan and replace him with a far left alternative, because all that will do is trigger the Trump base once again. You can’t mock or dismiss what they stand for and then expect them to come over to your side. Trump is the reflection of the mood that elected him, not the cause.

Among the current list of Democratic candidates, we search for those with more than simply policy prescriptions. Instead we look for ones who seem to understand the political arc that led to Trump in the first place.

We don’t live in a political vacuum. Individual choice is the bedrock of the American Way. That’s why a Medicare for-all-who-want-it solution is a better prescription irrespective of whether in purely financial terms it saves more than the alternative.

Medicare for-all-who-want-it trusts people along the entire political spectrum to make the choice that is right for them and their families.

Choice shows respect for all people, but especially those who saw their worlds collapse in the technological globalist, find-the-cheapest labor changeover of this last generation.

The number one issue facing America in 2019 is not Donald Trump. It is not healthcare or climate change. The number one problem is the polarization that now splits the nation along the Trumpian divide. Which is exactly what are adversaries are licking their chops over.

A far-left President replacing far-right one is not in keeping with the primary need to reduce the polarization that is weakening this country at its core.

As we scan the wide stage of Democratic candidates, you wonder why the circumstances that led to this polarization hasn’t been better understood by top tier candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Forget for a second whether their Medicare For All prescription for American‘s health care system has merit, and ask instead, is the patient presently prepared for that medicine? All medication ads on television say, ‘ask your physician if X is right for you’.

Young Pete Buttigieg the mayor of South Bend, Indiana seems to understand that perfectly. So does Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Their solutions to America’s ills always first considers the current state of health of the electorate.

That’s why though they might intellectually agree that Medicare for all is a better healthcare policy – and I don’t know if they do – they also know that the polarized state of the American people makes that policy untenable right now.

The art of the possible in a pluralistic society is made up of individual brush strokes of many colors that add up over time to a cohesive picture, not wide smears of a single color that simply covers the canvas.

In the year 2020, polarization will be the disease America must cure first not simply healthcare or the Middle East or Donald Trump.

We must not allow ourselves to view this coming election as a zero-sum game, I win, you lose. For if we do, then none will win and all will lose.

Chairman Cummings said it best, “We must stand together with those we do not look like, with those who we disagree with, and recognize we have more in common than what separates us.”

RIP, Elijah.  May your passing instruct us from the distance you now keep and show us the better road to follow ahead.


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