The 2016 election offered lots of lessons to Democrats about the nature and temperature of the electorate. Elizabeth Warren thinks she has diagnosed exactly what they want and need for 2018 and 2020, and has gone on a tour of Massachusetts working-class communities to lay out her vision. However, the Wall Street Journal report on her campaign exposes an amusing — and likely fatal — contradiction at the heart of her message:
Ms. Warren’s message: Things are unfair; Washington is to blame; and without major changes the country will be irreparably harmed.
So far, so good. Donald Trump’s voters — the ones Warren wants to win back for Democrats — really distrust Washington and the political elite. What does Warren propose to do about it? Er … how about putting the Beltway political elite completely in charge of everyone’s health care?
Ms. Warren says her immediate focus is on fighting the Republican health-care legislation and mounting her 2018 re-election campaign. But she hasn’t been shy about seeking to pull fellow Democrats and those running in next year’s midterm elections to the left.
Blocking the GOP rollback of provisions in the Affordable Care Act, Ms. Warren said, is not enough. She said Democrats on the ballot in the next two federal elections should back a national single-payer health-care plan.
“President Obama tried to move us forward with health-care coverage by using a conservative model that came from one of the conservative think tanks that had been advanced by a Republican governor in Massachusetts,” she said during an interview in her Senate office last week. “Now it’s time for the next step. And the next step is single payer.”
Ahem. Democrats such as Warren say that they learned a lesson in 2016, but clearly they didn’t study it nearly well enough. If they had, they would realize that mouthing a platitude like “Washington is to blame” and adding in the same breath that Washington should run the entire health-care system qualifies one for either a comedic career or a straitjacket. Trump’s voters may want to keep safety-net programs like Medicare in place, but they don’t want an expansion of Washington’s authority in their lives. They especially don’t want elites in Washington, New York, or Los Angeles dictating the choices in their lives.
The push for single payer might be a little more credible if progressives such as Sen. Warren had actually succeeded in implementing socialized medicine on the state level. Unfortunately, even in California — where Democrats have a death grip on government at practically all levels — progressives couldn’t bring themselves to pass a single-payer system. The projected costs turned out to be so enormous that the state would spend more than twice its FY2017 budget every year just to pay for it, which would have required tax increases so large that even Democrats wouldn’t propose them. In fact, the state senate passed the bill without any provision for funding, and the assembly tabled the bill rather than deal with the fiscal consequences of single-payer. Talk is cheap, but socialized medicine is an expensive dose of hemlock for politicians.
Warren misreads the 2016 election because she sees it through a Bernie Sanders filter. Sanders succeeded in generating enthusiasm from voters, but it was largely where Democrats already win — in Academia and in urban centers. Those are the voters with the deep ideological commitment to big government and the diktat of the elite, because they see themselves in that role. Warren’s prescription for Democrats will eventually lead to big rallies on safe ground, and a further disconnect from everyone else. In other words, it’s going to make 2016 look like a pattern rather than an anomaly.