He operates in a weird space in which his socialism is taken as a given and he is never really grilled by the press on how he'd accomplish it (he is also against ending the filibuster) and how he'd pay for it.
No slouch when it comes to progressive policy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made clear the dangers of embracing Medicare-for-all, publicly questioning how we would pay for it. She told The Washington Post in a recent interview, "When most people say they're for Medicare-for-all, I think they mean health care for all. Let's see what that means. A lot of people love having their employer-based insurance and the Affordable Care Act gave them better benefits."
While some Democratic contenders have thrown their lot in with Sanders, others are in sync with Pelosi (who, you remember, engineered a 40-seat pickup and takeover of the House promising to defend the ACA).
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington state and Beto O'Rourke, to name three, have adamantly refused to offer a Sanders-type plan that most Democrats aren't yearning for anyway and for which no realistic path to passage exists. They think they can accomplish something for voters in short order and avoid painting a big fat target labeled "socialist" for Republicans to take aim at.
O'Rourke certainly has been prodded to sign up for the Sanders' Medicare-for-all political death sentence. However, from his first post-announcement interview on "CBS This Morning" up through his rallies, he has refused to bite. He stresses that allowing people to keep plans they like but giving others the option to enroll in Medicare is the fastest way to cover more people and offer a cheaper alternative to coverage.
At Penn State University, he told the crowd, "Two extraordinary women with whom I served in Congress, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois [and] Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, have introduced a proposal called 'Medicare for America' that ensures that if you have employer-based insurance and if you like it, you keep it. Your doctors, your network, what works for you right now." He added, "If you don't have insurance or you don't like the insurance you already have, you enroll in Medicare."
Klobuchar also has stood her ground. "The smartest transition right now would be to do a public option, and you could do it by expanding Medicaid, you can expand Medicare," Klobuchar said in a CNN interview in February. "I'm on both bills that do that, and that's going to get us more quickly, I believe, to where we need to go."
Inslee hit a similar message in a CNN interview.
As he said, it's not necessary to embrace Sanders' plan, either politically or as a policy matter. With a variety of methods (a public option, earlier buy-in for Medicare) Democrats can achieve their goals "without eliminating private insurance carriers."
By any definition, these three candidates are good-standing members of the left; they just don't have a political death wish.
Some commentators have started to figure out that real Democratic primary voters are a lot more middle-of-the-road than the Twitter echo chamber or the loudest voices on cable TV. (The New York Times reported, "The outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse and less educated group of Democrats who typically don't post political content online.")
Candidates who really want to win the nomination, not just get the most "likes" on Twitter, should keep that political reality in mind. If these contenders can withstand the pro-Sanders hordes of twerps and social media posters and communicate directly with voters, they'll find that their own approach to build on the ACA is more than satisfactory. What's more, if O'Rourke, Klobuchar or Inslee manage to win the nomination, the Democrats won't have lost the general election before it has even begun.
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