The latest round of surveys from Rasmussen Reports includes one item that seems rather pertinent to the Democratic primary battle currently unfolding as well as the general election in November. They asked American voters where they stand on the subject of presidential candidates releasing their medical records to the public before being asked to cast a ballot for them. Unsurprisingly, a very significant majority said that the candidates’ health is important when making decisions about supporting them.
With 78-year-old Bernie Sanders’ surge to the lead in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, questions are being raised about his health, especially following a heart attack several months ago. A sizable majority of voters says a candidate’s health is an important voting issue, and most think major presidential candidates should make their medical records public.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 86% of Likely U.S. Voters rate a candidate’s health as important to their vote, with 39% who say it’s Very Important.
Rasmussen features Bernie Sanders in their description of the survey for obvious reasons. After he was knocked off the campaign trail for a while by a heart attack, he made the controversial decision not to release his full medical records, something he’s been pinged on by people from both parties.
But Bernie is hardly the only one with health questions swirling around him. Joe Biden has been causing all manner of discussions in a related vein, though it’s a different sort of “health” people are asking about when he appears to forget where he is and begins fabricating stories about an arrest in Africa. For that matter, President Trump spurred a number of theories last year with his unscheduled visit to Walter Reed in November.
Are Americans justified in wanting to know the details of the candidates’ health? Absolutely. Such records are almost always treated as completely private information when it comes to the vast majority of Americans… or at least they’re supposed to be. But when you’re running to be leader of the free world, the voters want to know if you’re up to the task and likely to last for a full four-year term. This is particularly true when you’re talking about a sitting president and a small group of frontrunners hoping to replace him, nearly all of whom are well into their 70s.
But the voters obviously also need to temper their expectations on this subject. Releasing medical records, just as with tax records, is a tradition, not a legal requirement. There is no way to force any of them to give up such documents if they don’t wish to. And what were we expecting to begin with? Anyone with problematic medical issues isn’t going to want to serve that up as a softball for their opponents to knock out of the park. The only ones who will want to release all of their unvarnished health records are the ones with perfectly clean bills of health.
The only other logical response is to say that people will “vote with their wallets” (so to speak) and not support candidates who don’t come clean. But is that true? Keep in mind that the current Democratic frontrunner (by a significant margin) is the aforementioned, record-hiding heart attack victim. The previously assumed favorite is the guy who seems to be slipping into an increasingly frequent series of senior moments. And the current White House occupant who actually won his race was the guy who had his first medical report delivered by a doctor who looked like he just stumbled off the set of a Cheech and Chong movie.
In short, voters may say that they want to see candidates’ health records, but it certainly doesn’t appear that a failure to deliver is a deal-breaker for them. Personally, I’m more concerned about a candidate’s mental health than their physical maladies. Everyone dies eventually, some much younger than others. Presidents can fall victim to the same range of diseases or accidents that plague the rest of us, plus they are always a potential target for assassins. That’s why we have a Vice President. But a POTUS with failing mental faculties might stay in office attempting to hide the problems to the potential risk of the nation’s future. And the 25th Amendment is a dubious remedy for a situation like that.