Splintered: Single-Payer Litmus Test Has Cut The Democratic Party In Two

Matt Vespa
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Posted: Sep 18, 2017 1:16 PM
Splintered: Single-Payer Litmus Test Has Cut The Democratic Party In Two

The Democratic Party establishment may be skeptical of it it, but there is enthusiasm and energy behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) single-payer initiative. So far, it has 15 co-sponsors. It’s not that they’re against the aims of the bill, alternatively called Medicare-for-all, it’s the price tag, the optics, and the strategy in selling it. 


To the more centrist wing, it’s causing concern that progressive cohorts want to use this as a litmus test for elections, in which the Democratic Party’s already limited pool of talented up starters could further shrink if this is the death knell for a potential candidacy for any office. 

Like it or not, the Democratic Party is not a national one. It’s been decimated during and after the Obama era, with 1,000 fewer Democrats in office than there were in 2008-09. The GOP control Congress, the White House, 69/99 state legislatures, and two-thirds of the governorships. The Republicans are at the apex of their power. 

In the rural regions that are not receptive to hyper-left wing politics that dominate the Silicon Valley area. Democrats would get killed—and a large portion of the party, albeit the older wing, knows this. 

As Democrats try to unite in order to push an agenda forward for 2018 and beyond, Sanders’ single-payer push had split them right down the middle—and there’s ample concern that this push to purity could lead to all-out civil war (via Politico):

As Sanders prepares to unveil his Medicare for All legislation on Wednesday, most of the party’s congressional leaders and vulnerable Senate incumbents are steering clear. Even as the left celebrates Sanders’ ability to push the Democratic agenda leftward after his primary challenge to Hillary Clinton last year, that success appears to have its limits.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters that he would be “looking at all of” the party’s “many good” proposals to expand health care access, but declined to back Sanders. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi declared that her priority is shielding Obamacare from a GOP repeal push that’s not yet dead for good.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, one of the few Democrats subject to 2020 speculation who has not signed on to the Sanders bill, warned against letting the party’s attention slip to “longer-term health care policy” while the future of the Affordable Care Act remains up for debate.

“I think the risk is that we get distracted,” Murphy told reporters. “September’s not done. They can still ram through a repeal bill.”

[…]

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has been mentioned as a possible 2020 candidate, also expects to sign on to the single-payer bill, a spokesman said Tuesday. Franken noted that his cosponsorship reflects the bill's status as a long-term goal while the party continues short-term work on Obamacare.

"This bill is aspirational, and I’m hopeful that it can serve as a starting point for where we need to go as a country," Franken said in a statement. "In the short term, however, I strongly believe we must pursue bipartisan policies that improve our current health care system for all Americans — and that’s exactly what we’re doing right now in the Senate Health Committee, on which both Senator Sanders and I sit."

For other Democrats, however, the idea’s time may have not yet come.

Ben Cardin said in an interview that he supports universal health coverage but has "certain concerns" about using single-payer to achieve that goal.

[…]

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, facing consternation from liberals in her home state of California — where an effort to enact single-payer statewide ran aground this year — said that she would want to see the price tag before taking a position on Sanders' bill.

"My understanding is, the cost of single-payer is enormous," Feinstein said, noting that she supports a public option for health insurance outside the private market.


On top of that, you have Hillary Clinton’s What Happened hitting the bookshelves, which will reopen wounds from the 2016 campaign. Moreover, it appears she wrote this book to serve as a vehicle for revenge against Sanders, who Clinton blames for damaging her candidacy, completely lacking the fact that many of the flaws and mistakes Sanders used against the former first lady were almost entirely her fault. Also, Democratic data crunchers and operatives have run focus groups and found a slew of discouraging signs for their party’s 2018 prospects. 

First, the Democratic agenda isn’t popular outside of the base. Minimum wage increases, free college tuition proposals all fall flat, with the latter stoking resentment and feelings that it’s just too good to be true. A tailor-made political lie manufactured to get votes; they’re right. Some operatives are even writing memos to ditch free college altogether, instead focusing on making it more affordable and policies to reduce the debt. 

Second, Trump is Teflon. Yes, he’s Teflon Don, as none of the attacks Democrats have thrown at him politically and personally have stuck. Voters give him credit for the economy, they like his business background, they think the Russia story is weak sauce, they like that he’s an outsider, and they’re continuing to give him the benefit of the doubt. On immigration, voters align more with Trump than Democrats. 

And on top of this, there’s the massive rehabilitation project with the various state parties that have been left to wither and die under the Obama White House, the casualty of building a political party around one man. There's a lot of rebuilding on the left and this single-payer initiative, which even The Washington Post's editorial board noted is astronomically expensive, looks like it could blow the whole works. 

Then again, I'm not complaining. Let's see if there are any fireworks over this terrible public policy initiative