Today, the phenomenon of co-opting a progressive agenda can be seen in the growing support for Medicare-for-all among mainline Democrats. This idea is tremendously popular with the American public by some measures, but the specifics of the concept are not clearly defined. While most leftists and progressives tend to favor a universal single-payer health-care system like that of Canada or the United Kingdom, most establishment Democrats avoid the term “single-payer,” either by choice or because party operatives have advised them to do so.

Some 2020 hopefuls among the Democratic establishment, who had signaled support for Medicare-for-all, have recently wavered. Others who claim to have embraced it often merely talk about strengthening the Affordable Care Act or expanding Medicare with a public option (the idea behind Medicare X). Neither of these policies would seriously challenge the stranglehold that big insurance and big pharma have on the grossly unequal and commodified American for-profit health-care system.

Taking a page from Bob La Follette, today’s progressives should resist diluting their policies and accepting half loaves. More importantly, they should remain cautious of concerted attempts to co-opt their messages and momentum.