You’ve heard of buyer’s remorse, but now Democrats appear to have developed a case of Bernie remorse. After rushing to out-socialist Bernie Sanders by unquestioningly embracing Medicare for All, the Washington Post reports that presidential candidates have begun singing a different tune. Kamala Harris might be carrying the melody, but she’s getting a lot of harmony from the rest of the choir:
The Democratic senator from California is hardly alone. The idea of Medicare-for-all — a unified government health program that would take over the basic function of private insurance — became a liberal litmus test at the outset of the presidential campaign, distinguishing Democratic contenders who cast themselves as bold visionaries from more moderate pragmatists.
But in recent months, amid polling that shows concern among voters about ending private insurance, several of the Democratic hopefuls have shifted their positions or their tone, moderating full-throated endorsement of Medicare-for-all and adopting ideas for allowing private insurance in some form. …
This unmistakable, if sometimes subtle, shift in tone stems in part from Democrats’ fear of giving away a newfound advantage over Republicans on health care.
After the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, Republicans scored major political victories by vowing to repeal the initially unpopular law. But when the GOP seized control of Washington under President Trump and tried to follow through on those promises, they faced a powerful backlash from voters who’d come to rely on the ACA.
Now some Democrats warn of the perils for their party in taking a position that, to important groups of voters, could seem just as disruptive as the GOP’s push to kill the ACA.
No kidding. However, this isn’t about the ACA at all. ObamaCare customers are a relative drop in the bucket in the US population. The problems with Medicare for All are related to the 150 million or so people who get their insurance through their employers, and who have a relatively high level of satisfaction with their coverage. The disruption of that system would be massive, and Democrats are starting to belatedly recognize that it would be massively unpopular too.
Medicare for All wouldn’t be “just as disruptive as the GOP’s push to kill the ACA.” It would be orders of magnitude more disruptive. The fact that none of these candidates bothered to run the numbers before jumping on the Bernie bandwagon for this ridiculous proposal speaks volumes about their suitability for the nomination.
So who’s hitting reverse along with Harris? Cory Booker now wants to cast himself as a “pragmatist.” Kirsten Gillibrand, who co-sponsored Bernie’s bill, is now proposing a “public option” in ObamaCare instead. Even proud progressive Elizabeth Warren is “given herself wiggle room,” the Post reports, by talking about “a lot of different pathways” to get to Sanders’ overall goal — which is still, by the way, socialized medicine through Medicare for All.
In fact, Team Sanders is doubling down on wiping out all private insurance:
“The moment a person has to open their wallet to get health care in America is the moment that some people will be denied that right,” said Ari Rabin-Havt, chief of staff for Sanders’s campaign. “Anyone supporting plans that would leave millions without even basic coverage cannot claim to be standing for health care as a right.”
In the midterms, Democrats successfully ran on health care by portraying Republicans as the party that would strip health coverage away in its ObamaCare repeal. If Democrats stick with Medicare for All, imagine how powerful that message will be when Republicans apply it to Democrats, when it relates not to the 13 million or so direct ObamaCare customers but to 150 million working Americans. Their Bernie remorse is just getting started.