I came across two different pieces this morning which both suggest that Democrats are nervous that some of their leading candidates are miscalculating the public’s appetite for another big, disruptive change to health care. First up is a piece at the Hill titled “‘Medicare for All’ complicates Democrats’ pitch to retake Senate.” Specifically, the piece makes the case that Democrats who are attempting to use frame Republican attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare as unconscionable are being run over by the reality that leading Democrats want to replace Obamacare with Medicare for all.
In Colorado, a crowded field of Democrats is battling it out to determine who will challenge Sen. Cory Gardner (R), one of the most vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection next year in a state that has increasingly favored Democrats in statewide contests.
His potential challengers are hitting him on his record of voting to repeal ObamaCare and for not speaking out against an administration-backed lawsuit aimed at overturning the health care law.
But Gardner has deflected those efforts by highlighting the Medicare for All debate, mirroring language used by former Vice President Joe Biden, the front runner in the Democratic presidential primary who has compared Medicare for All to repealing ObamaCare.
“The Democrats want to repeal and replace ObamaCare with socialized medicine,” Gardner told The Hill. “This is a leap to the left as the Democrats in the state of Colorado and nationally try to out-socialism each other. I think voters are going to reject that.”
There’s an odd framing in this story. A Democratic strategist named Brad Bannon is quoted as saying the language used by moderates like Joe Biden is “very, very harmful.” In other words, when Biden says Medicare for all is equivalent to repealing Obamacare, he’s handing Republicans like Sen. Gardner a lifeline. That may be true but it also seems to be missing the point.
Yes, it helps Republicans for Biden to say this, but it helps them because what he’s saying is true. Leading Democratic candidates really do want to replace Obamacare with socialized medicine. That’s the real source of the problem, not that Joe Biden is describing accurately what is happening or that Cory Gardner is echoing him.
And that brings me to the 2nd article touching on this today, this one by Rahm Emmanuel. Writing at Politico Magazine, Emmanuel says Democrats threatening Obama’s legacy by vowing to toss out Obamacare are making a big political mistake:
The first issue is whether Democrats should aim to tear the Affordable Care Act apart in order to replace it with “Medicare for All” or, alternatively, should strengthen and expand a law that’s working remarkably well, given the headwinds. It’s certainly true, because the Senate elected in 2008 wouldn’t support the public option, that the Affordable Care Act left a role for the private sector. But that’s no reason to abandon a law that expanded health coverage to 20-plus million more Americans. And the politics don’t work either. The ACA passed without a Senate vote to spare nearly a decade ago. Is there any reason to believe that the Senate elected in 2020 will be capable of repealing the existing law or replacing it with Medicare for All? In an age of debilitating public cynicism, Democrats should be very careful not to promise something they can’t deliver…
To strike the next blow, we shouldn’t scare voters by offering a proposal that takes their health care plans away, which Medicare for All does. When it comes to scaring voters, leave that to Trump because he seems to have that market cornered. As Democrats, our best strategy, both in terms of policy and politics, is to explain how we’re going to build on progressive achievements that voters already know, understand and have come to appreciate.
Medicare for all is hugely popular so long as you don’t tell people that they’ll lose their insurance. Once you do that…well, here’s Vox’s Ezra Klein:
Bernie Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan, as currently written, would cancel every private insurance plan in the country. Polling suggeststhat’s lethal: When told that Medicare-for-all would abolish private insurance, respondents flip from favoring the plan by a 56 percent to 38 percent margin to opposing it by a 58 percent to 37 percent margin. These numbers, when combined with the Obamacare backlash and the Clintoncare experience, have underscored reformers’ view that a plan that takes away the private insurance people have and like is doomed.
And that’s not the only poison pill in M4A. The other big one is the fact that middle-class taxes would have to go way, way up to pay for it. When the public becomes acutely aware of these two things in combination, there’s precisely zero chance of getting M4A through congress. The would-be revolutionaries in the party don’t much care about such practical matters, but Rahm Emmanuel is right that Democrats would be foolish to ignore them.
Bottom line: If the party goes out on a limb for single-payer it will be harder to retake the Senate and will simultaneously be an abandonment of Obamacare. That’s the best thing that could happen to Republicans, but the Democratic Party is moving to the left so quickly that they are turning on Joe Biden for daring to state the obvious.