Primary-ing a Democrat is definitely something we shouldn't consider without ample justification. It's full of risk, since incumbents have a tremendous advantage in name recognition, fund raising abilities, connections, etc. We all have our own issues of particular passion. We certainly wouldn't want to launch an internal fight without something that we all are passionate about, and that is central to our key values. There is definitely risk.
So why are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid special? These programs help the elderly, and those with elderly parents, and the poor, and the disadvantaged. (Hospital care for retires is a big part of Medicaid.) They are key factors in keeping many people out of poverty and ill health. They help the economy by giving spending money to those who will actually spend it. They are perhaps the pinnacle achievements of the New Deal and the Democratic party.
And Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are tremendously popular, and popular among all segments of the population (including the Tea party).
Preventing privatization of these functions is a very important backstop against the continuing right wing movement to give away public assets to rich speculative investors. Medicare, with an overhead of something like 3% is vastly more efficient than private health insurance which typically has overhead costs closer to 30%.
I find it difficult to believe that anyone willing to cut these programs, via age increases or chained CPI or other such mechanisms, really believe in core Democratic party values.
We have all tolerated a lot of disappointment and betrayal from our Democratic representatives and stood by these reps. And I understand that, for example, a Democrat in Montana might have to be careful about what s/he says about guns, etc. It's not a perfect world, with perfect communication, and communicating a nuanced message can be next to impossible. And compromise is often needed at the end of the day (but only at the end of the day!) in order to get some agreement.
But here we have programs which are supported by majorities of all segments of the population. If we could somehow get a unified front among progressive groups to make support for these social programs mandatory, then what's the down side? President Obama might have to say "I was willing to cut these programs to come to an agreement, but it's been filibustered in the Senate by Democrats" (that would be worth it right there!). "The public doesn't want these cuts, and the Democrats won't pass them, so GOP you have to specify other things to cut or agree to what we have."
Of course that won't go well, but at least we'd make Democrats the party which stands behind these highly popular programs unflinchingly. Wouldn't that be refreshing, and a great issue for 2014.
Of course the real goal is to convince our existing Democratic representatives that they must oppose cuts to these programs. But without a credible threat, it seems to me that sooner or later Obama will negotiate a budget with chained CPI, Democrats in congress will support it and the GOP will run against us on this in 2014. Disaster on many levels, I'm afraid.
Of course we'd need a unified progressive front on this issue. And it almost seems like that has to be negotiated so that we know we've got it before we roll out the threat. But I guess the first step is to see if people think it's the right issue and is a threat worth carrying through on.
So: I'm curious what people think. The threat to primary a Democrat over "one issue" is not something we should take lightly. And yet, at some point, we've got to insist on candidates that support our key core values. And I can't think of a better example than Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.