Kamala Harris climbed far out on a limb Monday night — and now her fellow Democrats are busy sawing it off. In a CNN town hall Monday night, the presidential contender insisted that she would impose Medicare for All and “eliminate” private health insurance. CNN now reports that key Democrats have publicly balked at the notion, with Harris’ fellow Californian Dianne Feinstein declaring, “Well, I’m not there”:
Harris’ comments appeared to put her firmly in favor of the most dramatic proposal to provide health care to everyone, rather than other options she’s supported like allowing Americans to buy-into Medicaid.
But they again exposed the division within the party, as several Democratic senators — from the rank-and-file members to leadership to other potential presidential contenders — did not follow Harris’ call to eliminate private health insurance.
That’s putting it mildly. Tim Kaine and Dick Durbin both insisted that they don’t want to kill off private insurance, at least not directly. They still want the “public option” added back into ObamaCare, a Medicare-style program that would compete with private insurance in the exchanges. That’s a distinction without much difference, as the pricing on the public option could be easily manipulated to force private insurers out of business within a few years — which is why the public option got dropped from ObamaCare in the first place.
Other Democrats don’t go even that far. Sens. Gary Peters and Chris Murphy want to expand buy-in eligibility for Medicare, allowing people 55 and older to get a head start. One version would allow first responders to buy in at any age. This is the “Medicare for More” idea that has formed in the Overton-window shift that the Medicare for All debate has created, a way to get incremental gains as an alternative to revolutionary overhaul. Peters warned that dramatic change would backfire on reformers:
“It’s a process — you can’t just pull the rug out from underneath everybody’s feet,” Peters said. “If you tell the American people you must do this, my experience has been a lot of people will say, ‘You can’t tell me to do anything.'”
Gee, I wonder where they learned that lesson?
CNN notes that even Harris’ fellow progressives in the 2020 mix didn’t leap out to her defense:
Two likely Democratic presidential candidates declined to weigh in on the matter Tuesday. Warren told CNN that she “hadn’t seen” Harris’ remarks and said she would have to review them first. Booker, rushing to catch a Senate train, said when asked about Harris calling for an elimination of private health plans: “I’m not going to comment on that.”
That sawing sound Harris hears might precede a very sharp fall. Harris forgot the first rule of Democratic primaries: you never go the full socialist. Harris has set the bar on the far left, and now everyone else in the race can cast themselves as thoughtful moderates or realistic progressives. That’s the risk of starting early, and of doing town halls without testing your message a little better, even within your own party.
Or even outside of your own party. Here’s Howard “Middleton” Schultz on CNN, practically basking in the opportunity to call Democrats nuts on health care. And Republicans nuts on almost everything else.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, whose consideration of an independent presidential run in 2020 has infuriated Democrats, says that "Medicare-for-all" is unaffordable https://t.co/f7R6VWMfkJ pic.twitter.com/smRLS2mktr
— CNN (@CNN) January 30, 2019