The coronavirus pandemic is a lingering reality that will play an outsize role in the 2022 midterm elections. But it is a different issue than it was in 2020, when Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden could simply promise to do a better job than Donald Trump. In 2022, Democratic candidates have to not just be against the dishonest and dysfunctional responses of Republican ideologues to the pandemic. They have to be for an agenda that assures this country is prepared to respond to the ongoing threat posed by Covid-19 variants and the prospect of future pandemics that could be even more deadly.
To get the issue right, Democratic candidates must acknowledge the disproportionate impact of the Covid crisis on working class communities, especially communities of color, and the systemic inequities that have historically contributed to health disparities in the United States.
With that in mind, and with the midterm election season now ramping up, Democratic candidates and strategists would be wise to look at the approach adopted by a pair of Texans who are top contenders in the state’s primary election on March 1. While centrist Democrats claim that this is a time to pull back from progressive promises for sweeping health care reforms, congressional candidates Jessica Cisneros and Greg Casar beg to differ. They argue that the pandemic—which saw the state frequently experience the highest Covid death rate in the nation—has provided searing evidence of the need for a single-payer “Medicare For All” system.
Health care is a human right and we must ensure every working family has access to the doctors and prescriptions they need to stay healthy—and there is no better solution than passing Medicare For All,” declares the campaign of Casar, who is running in an open-seat contest to represent the heavily-Democratic 35th congressional district, which stretches from East Austin to San Antonio.
As an activist member of the city council since 2014, Casar has earned national headlines as an advocate for worker rights, immigrant rights, and reproductive rights. Before the 2020 presidential primary in Texas, it was Casar who introduced Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to a huge crowd in Austin. When the pandemic hit, Casar threw himself into the grassroots work of expanding access to health care in Austin, assuring that nurses and other essential workers were protected, and getting Covid testing and vaccine sites opened up in the neighborhoods that were hardest hit by the pandemic , primarily low-income communities and communities of color. He got high marks for his efforts, but the candidate recognized, “We need federal action to ensure our working families, schools, and communities can protect themselves and their loved ones from COVID-19.” And from all the other physical, emotional, and economic challenges that arise when health care is not readily available.