“From unicorns” isn’t my snark. It comes from Jeff Weaver, a top strategist to … Bernie Sanders. Yes, really: The avowed socialist in the race is now the person demanding that other candidates explain how they’ll pay for their pie-in-the-sky programs.
Jeff Weaver just called Harris pledge "unicorns, magic wands." "You have to pay for it." https://t.co/BqGLJo4fAl
— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) July 17, 2019
Imagine Bernie’s annoyance. Harris piggybacked onto his Medicare for All plan, co-sponsoring it in the Senate because she thought embracing it would appeal to progressives once she ran for president. That’s part of her strategy to unify different parts of the Democratic base behind her: If she can win over centrist black voters from Biden but also pick off lefties from Sanders and Warren, she’s unbeatable. Her (and Warren) endorsing MFA partly neutralizes Bernie’s core pitch to the left, that he and he alone will fight for tectonic changes to U.S. health care. Now, to top it off, here’s Harris attempting to one-up him by claiming that somehow, unlike Sanders, she’s going to make Medicare for All happen without taxing the middle class. It’s ludicrous. It’s insulting to one’s intelligence.
…and it might work. There are a lot of dumb voters out there who either won’t know that or won’t care that she’s lying. If Sanders is promising MFA along with massive middle-class tax hikes and Harris is promising the same thing gratis, guess who wins. What choice does Team Bernie have but to call her on this in the name of (deep breath) fiscal responsibility?
Because I’m a cynic, I kind of grudgingly admire Harris’s willingness to just BS her way through the primary and then worry about cleaning it all up once she’s the nominee. Doublespeak, especially but not exclusively on the topic of health care, has been the hallmark of her campaign so far. She bludgeoned Biden at the debate for not supporting mandatory busing in the name of integration then tiptoed away from her own position a few days later when she said busing should merely be an option. She’s claimed repeatedly that her version of MFA would leave space for private insurance, but every time she’s pressed about that she admits that that private insurance would only cover supplemental non-health procedures like cosmetic surgery. Now here she is yammering that we’ll find $32 trillion for Medicare for All with some creative taxation of Wall Street transactions or whatever. Uh, nope, we will not. But Harris understands that the name of the game in this primary is “free sh*t” and she’s playing to win the game. If it makes Bernie feel better to be the guy who levels with voters about the price of socialism, great, let him groove on that feeling. Harris will be busy winning primaries and wrapping up the nomination by lying right to your stupid face.
If Marianne Williamson starts to gain traction in the polls, rest assured that Harris will be out the next day talking about how what we really need in Washington is a Department of Love.
She leads in her home state of California in the latest poll taken there, not coincidentally. There are few obvious overlaps between Harris and Trump politically but a major one is that neither sweats the details of policy. They both seem to understand that voters think big-picture: Details will change once Congress gets involved anyway, so focus on setting a broad policy vision instead. Trump’s going to build the wall, Harris is going to enact Medicare for All without any middle-class taxes. We’ll worry about the minutiae later.
Maybe she’ll get Mexico to pay for MFA.
Exit question via Philip Klein: Was it a mistake for Harris to glom onto Sanders’s health-care plan instead of introducing her own? If she had come up with her own version of Medicare for All, she would have been free to innovate with payment mechanisms and/or by scaling back some of the benefits her program would provide. She wouldn’t be stuck blithely insisting that she’ll somehow make all the sweet stuff in Sanders’s plan happen without any of the bitter. But as I say, Harris isn’t running because she’s some hardcore wonk with a burning desire to revamp American health care. Like most presidential candidates, she’s running because she sees an opening and wants to be president. Why would she risk alienating the left by offering a watered-down version of BernieCare when she could lift BernieCare for herself and lie as necessary about how to pay for it? Three cheers for the most cynical candidate in the field!