Single-Payer: McGovern Moment or Bernie Breakthrough?


It all depends on what it is the Democrats want to do. If they want simply to stake out an idealistic position, devoid of what might be construed as the hedging and fudging of the ‘Clinton Years.’ Without regard to electoral consequence. Then they should embrace single-payer enthusiastically, and trust that the good people of the United States will equally embrace the ideal that every man, woman and child in the United States, whoever they are, is entitled to healthcare paid for by taxes.

Then again, if you are a Democrat who places little faith in payback, in sloganeering, in wishful thinking. But rather, believes in winning elections. On the basis that you can do more in office to help the disadvantaged. Than you can waving a failed manifesto, standing outside in the cold. Then you might think that Bernie’s announcement of Medicare-for-all last week, if it becomes the settled platform of the Democratic Party going into 2018 and 2020, was a modern-day McGovern Moment.

Not least because we offered it as a hostage-to-fortune to the liars in the Republican Party, by lacking the guts to put a price tag on the announcement.

If the Democrats have just become nothing more than a party of who-cares, left-wing idealists, then what I am about to say matters not a whit. If, however, Democrats do still care about winning, then it is time to admit that there is not a realistic pundit in the US today who is saying other than that the path to victory for the Democrats in 2018 and 2020 lies through demographic realities that require picking up an awful lot of middle-of-the-road, swing voters. And many if not most of these voters supported Trump in 2016.

Look. We can scream and wail and gnash and cry all we like. Come up with cute variations of screaming howls from white nationalist guts all day long. But the fact remains that many of these swing voters remain scared and uncertain and angry. And. Right or wrong. One of the matters about which they are angriest is that they saw their health insurance premiums go up dramatically under Obamacare. After the Obama administration had told them that wouldn’t happen.

Next thing these voters know. The people they regard as the same bunch of politicians. Are saying. Hey, trust us again. This time, we’ve come up with a much better solution. The difference this time? We’re not making any promises. We’re not even putting a price tag on our new scheme.

And we think these good folk stung once are going to trust us a second time? When we have left the field open for the Republicans to spend the next year convincing them this new healthcare program of ours is going to cost the middle class even more in taxes than the increased premiums they suffered under our last reform?

But, but. I hear you say. Surely you’re not suggesting that they would opt for Republican repeal and reform instead? Yes. They most likely will.

First, because we’ve practically put up a neon sign condemning our own plan, because we didn’t cost it.

But secondly, and more importantly. Because. One more time. These swing voters are not open to reason at the moment. They are so scared and confused and desperate. They will buy any message that says, we (the Republicans) can find a way to let you down easy, and feel good about yourselves, by blaming someone else, and taking something from them, to give to you.

In this case. Taking healthcare coverage from about 20 million Democratic voters. And giving the proceeds (by way of reduced health insurance premiums) to middle-class, working, swing voters.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that the Great American public turns out to be way more altruistic than it demonstrated in 2016.

But I fear that, at the moment, the folks who are going to be determining national electoral outcomes in 2018 and 2020 are going to demonstrate more concern for themselves than for the disadvantaged.

I suspect that canny progressives are going to have to settle for presenting the ‘candy’ of limited liberal goals in an artful ‘wrapper ‘ of targeted, somewhat selfish populism.

Accepting that ordinary working Americans are going to want to see some measure of reform that reduces their premiums. But that does not increase their taxes. That the best Democrats can hope for with healthcare is that there is reform which retains some element of the increased coverage for the disadvantaged envisioned by the original Obamacare package.

Does this mean simply caving into the Republicans? Nope. But it does mean, in my opinion, recognizing that extreme liberalism is not the recipe for success at the moment. That the best way to avoid more Trump toxin is to go for something like my Democratic Populism.

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Published in: on September 23, 2017 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

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