Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., might be too sensible to succeed, but she deserves credit for reminding Democrats that there is no free lunch or free college or free health care or ... really, free anything.
In a recent town on CNN, Klobuchar was asked about Medicare-for-all. In defending the public option over a single-payer, Medicare-for-all system, she explained, "That is a way you get there [universal coverage] without suddenly dismantling the entire system, which was very difficult to do when we put the Affordable Care Act in place." She might have been even more blunt: Bernie's in fantasyland if he thinks there are votes for that, so maybe we should try something that works.
Even better - if you favor tough love and grown-up politics - she told the crowd that free college is a pipe dream. "I wish I could staple a free college diploma under every one of your chairs," she said. "I do. Don't look. It's not there," she told the audience in New Hampshire. She went on, "I wish I could do that, but I have to be straight with you and tell you the truth." Well, that's refreshing. She argued that if you "actually want to get something done," you'll consider her more practical ideas, including refinancing student loans, free two-year community college and expanded Pell grants.
It's easy for the left to paint her as the "incrementalist" or lacking bold ideas, but there are bold, workable ideas and bold, unworkable ideas. If you bemoan polarized politics, fear that a socialist nominee will hand Trump the 2020 election or understand there must be a House majority and a filibuster-proof majority (or a Democratic caucus willing to kill the filibuster) to get the socialist wish list passed, you should appreciate what she is saying, even if it's not as inspiring as the "you can have it all" message other candidates might advance.
When the debates get underway, it will be interesting to hear how Klobuchar (and perhaps vice president Joe Biden) tackle the "free stuff" crowd. Hard questions need to be asked, including:
• When Republicans filibuster your plan, then what?
• If you didn't have the filibuster, the next GOP president and GOP-controlled Congress could repeal Obamacare and any other discretionary program or entitlement. What then?
• Even if you needed only 51 votes in the Senate, what happens if Democrats don't win the Senate? What if they win the majority but don't have the votes for free __________ (fill in the blank)?
• Can we take on endless debt?
• On Medicare-for-all, what about the people who want to keep their employer-based plan?
• How do you win over the Americans who, when they find out that Medicare-for-all means no private insurance, oppose it?
• What intermediate steps, if any, are you willing to consider if you don't get your wish list?
• Your idea on free _______ (fill in the blank) has never gotten majority support and never come close to passage. How would your presidency succeed?
• Trump promised a wonderful health-care plan that cost less, covered more and provided better care. It didn't exist. Voters then felt snookered when there was no magic plan. Are you setting voters up for disappointment?
Democrats better consider these concerns seriously if they want to elect someone who can beat Trump and then govern effectively.
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