He Woulda’ Lost

One of the favorite refrains of the Berner crowd is that “Bernie would have won.” Their logic is pretty straight forward- Hillary *barely* lost the 2016 Election, and Bernie had less baggage. The belief of Berniestan is that he would have won Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. After all, he’d do better with groups she underperformed with, he’d motivate more people, and he’s the most popular politician in the country. Right?

Hillary Clinton actually beat Bernie. Despite the fact she lost the general election, she beat Bernie Sanders handily in the 2016 primary, by every metric available. With or without super delegates, regardless of caucus or primaries, and without any DNC interference, Hillary beat him. She beat him in pledged delegates. She beat him by about 15% in the popular vote. She had all but won the nomination by March. In fact, if caucuses were eliminated in places like Nebraska and Washington, in favor of higher turnout primaries, she would have beat him even worse. When on the ballot, Bernie’s alleged popularity never showed up. He got crushed.

Hillary was once the most popular politician in America too. In fact, she was so right up until she ran for President in 2016. When you’re not a candidate, that’s normal. When you’re not the front-runner, that’s normal. When no one thinks you can win, you’re popular. Bernie did not face much in actual vetting and criticism in 2016, because no one believed he would win, ever. No one believed he would be nominated or elected. This time he will enter as one of the few front-runners in a big field. Had he been nominated in 2016, he would have faced unprecedented scrutiny, for him. A nominated Bernie would probably not be the most popular politician in the country, and would probably end up viewed quite partisanly.

Bernie is weak with white people too. Like every other Democrat in America, he’s under water. He’s above water with women, but under with men. He’s above water with African-Americans. In other words, once Bernie became known, he became similar to just about any national Democratic candidate in terms of who supports him. In other words, it’s far from clear he’d win people Hillary did not.

Bernie’s support from African-American’s is wide, but shallow. Like every other national Democratic figure, Bernie Sanders and his policies are popular with the most loyal Democratic voting bloc. The thing is, the votes never followed Bernie in 2016. He was crushed in South Carolina, and every other majority-minority primary, particularly African-American ones. His endorsed candidates in 2018 generally lost non-white voters. At no point has Bernie shown an ability to turn favorable ratings from African-American voters into votes. His inability to energize African-American voters, coupled with his rather normal white approvals, would have made winning in 2016, or for that matter 2020, very difficult.

Bernie is basically a left-wing Democrat, politically, but he simply rejects the party base. Bernie has spoken pretty openly against identity politics. In other words, he’s not trying to deepen his wide but shallow support among African-Americans, women, or Latinos. It would have been hard to turn out more of these voters by eschewing their particular interests. Given that Bernie is rather average as far as candidates go otherwise, how would he change the results of 2016?

Bernie Sanders would have lost- and would lose in 2020 if he changes nothing. While he has had high approval numbers in the past (his latest I’ve seen are 44-42), those numbers will melt towards an average Democrat’s over the course of the race. He will have to win in a rather standard, boiler plate fashion in 2020- something he was utterly incapable of in 2016. What’s worse for him is that he won’t have Hillary as a foil this time. This time it will be him under the microscope. That would have been the kiss of death in 2016. It should remain a concern in 2020.

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A Little Cold Water on Bernie and His Ideas

The year was 1992. I was 9. The youngest eligible 2020 voters were not born for another decade. The Mayor of Burlington, Vermont was elected to be the lone Congressman from his state. A full 27 years will have passed by since that night by the time the Iowa Caucus is contested in February of 2020. That former Burlington Mayor will be nearly 80 years old.

2020 is not 2016, and Bernie Sanders is not what he’s claimed to be. He’s certainly not the outsider he claimed to be in 2016- He’s been in Washington over a quarter-century. His achievements there are not numerous, and probably don’t even outshine his disastrous tenure overseeing the Veteran Affairs Department as a chairman in the U.S. Senate. His 26 years (to date) Congressional career lacks accomplishments, and would not inspire one to think he’s the change agent he claims. In fact many of his “bold” ideas- “free” college, Medicare for All, massive action on climate change, $15 minimum wage- were things he wasn’t really championing before he launched his 2016 campaign. Bernie probably wasn’t fighting for them much because he actually does understand legislating- they weren’t going to pass Congress, maybe in his lifetime, let alone career.

But let’s talk about his actual record, shall we? While his supporters beat the crap out of Hillary Clinton for saying “super predators,” Bernie actually voted for the crime bill in Congress. He voted against immigration reform in 2007. He voted to protect gun manufacturers from lawsuits connected to shooting deaths. If you google each of these votes, you’ll find Vox, or some other generally liberal news source tell you why “it’s complicated,” and you know what? It is. But we lived through 2016, where Bernie and his online bros told us why Hillary Clinton was a “neoliberal” or “corporate whore,” and why all of us were too for supporting him. Bernie’s “purity” argument against Hillary for taking campaign contributions was supposed to suggest she was corrupt by the system, that she could be bought, which is why she wanted to improve the ACA instead of push Medicare for All, or why she supported strengthening Dodd-Frank over re-passing the antiquated Glass-Steagall Act. Bernie knew his argument wasn’t grounded in reality- that’s why he took complicated votes on the 1994 Crime Bill, on protecting gun manufacturers in a pro-gun state, in immigration reform, and yes, even in support of the ACA. I can accept that legislating isn’t pure, and would give him a pass, but he and his supporters didn’t afford that same reality to Hillary Clinton.

I understand why some Democrats like Bernie’s ideas- there’s power in aspiration. It gives you something to aim at. Let me be clear though- Bernie will never, ever get you there. Is that clear enough? He has not shown a record of being able to pass difficult bills, like say a Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, or even (sometimes controversially) a Joe Biden. It’s not clear Democrats could get 218 votes entirely in their own 235 member House caucus without any Republican help for his health care, taxes, or energy plans. Democrats barely were able to push the ACA, “Cap and Trade,” or Dodd-Frank through the House in Obama’s first two years, with similar majorities. There’s literally zero chance of the Democrats getting 60 votes for his plans to pass the Senate in their current forms. He doesn’t have the skill and tact to do what President Obama could not, which is get Republicans to the table.

Reality isn’t something that curtails Bernie’s ambitions though. He lost the primaries in 2016 by hundreds of delegates, or by any other measure or system you want. She beat him by well north of 10% in the popular vote. She won a majority of pledged delegates. She crushed him with super delegates. He was basically done after South Carolina, and had no mathematical shot at all after New York, but kept her running all the way to California in a hopeless slog, and then all the way to the convention. Never mind that he had no plan to achieve his policy goals, he had no plan to win the nomination either. He just kept running. His wife, who bankrupt a college, had the audacity to ask the FBI to “hurry up” with their Clinton e-mail server investigation. His supporters came to the convention in Philadelphia and made it a shit show. They played right along with Trump’s “crooked Hillary” messaging. It certainly didn’t help. Bernie just kept trudging along.

Bernie Sanders is not an outsider. He’s not a revolutionary. He’s not even a Democrat. He’s an angry man that is doing this for self benefit, to the point of paying his wife, step-daughter, and son to be advisors. He knows he can’t deliver his promises, but he’ll puff you up on them anyway, to collect those $27 donations and pay his family. Fortunately, I don’t think he’ll win, or even do as well this time. For all the talk of him being “the most popular politician in the country,” it’s worth noting that Hillary was that too, before she wasn’t. This time Bernie won’t benefit from being the recipient of the “anti-Hillary” vote in what was basically a one-on-one race, and will face a large field of newer, shinier objects. Already his 40% from 2016 is down below 20% in polls, because voters are not that into him. If you were betting Bernie against the field, you’d be smart to take the field.

I hated basically everything about the 2016 election, even down to a lot of things Hillary’s campaign did, but I liked her. Bernie and his supporters made the whole experience rotten. Their online attacks didn’t stop though in 2016, and continued into the Trump era. I’m proud to say I voted against him then, and will again. I’ll wear the crazies’ attacks as a badge of honor going into 2020, right down to the enemies list I made:

I’m going to have to go with “Thank you, next,” on Bernie 2020.

Dividing Lines

The political order is breaking down right in front of us. While DC is immersed in ideological battles, we’re seeing traditional liberalism and conservatism morph right in our eyes, you have cultural liberals arguing for free trade, cultural conservatives railing against billionaires, and moderates on both sides picking and choosing amidst the carnage.

This is not to say there aren’t still more traditional left and right, or even extreme left and right. That still exists. The main point is that there are new politics emerging, like a spring blooming from the Earth. In the aftermath of 2016, there are new coalitions forming, some good, some bad.

Americans aren’t satisfied with their political choices. This is why 42% self-identify as independent. It’s why more radical voices are rising on the left and right. It’s why people who lack credibility (Trump, Bernie, AOC) are gaining followings. People want to hear what they want to hear, not what is “possible” or “electable.” It’s why talking about the cost of something, or Congressional viability, or details of a plan haven’t derailed some of the frauds and grifters who have risen in our politics. Nobody cares about what’s wrong with their lies.

The only way out of this hellscape is vision. Someone will have to put something real, appealing, and truly good for people’s lives on the table. Tax subsidies for Amazon to bring minimum wage jobs to Queens aren’t exciting, even if they’re an upgrade for people who need more income there. Activists will sabotage that every time, because there’s no real joy in it. People want their standard of living improved. They want opportunity. The only way to stop them from dumb ideas is to offer good ones.

Income Assistance for those “Unwilling to Work,” Cow Farts, Killing the Airline Industry, and Placating Some Folks

Call me cynical- I don’t believe AOC’s botched roll out of her “Green New Deal” was a mistake. The Justice Dems poster child and former Bernie Sanders organizer has promised to “lean in” to an oncoming “war” in the Democratic Party, complete with primaries across the party. She’s been clear that she’s not willing to compromise with anyone, on much of anything. Her response to Democrats that want to repair Obamacare instead of overhaul the system for Medicare for All was very telling:

There are lots of questions to be answered on Medicare for All, and plenty of good reasons to look at other alternatives that get you to universality, or at least better than you have now. AOC isn’t willing to look at them though, and the reasoning has been hiding in plain sight for a long time now- her goal is eliminating any moderation within the Democratic Party. Why, you ask? Because AOC and Bernie Sanders aren’t radical or extreme anymore if everyone agrees with them.

Take the Green New Deal resolution AOC has been leading the charge on along with Senator Markey. There is nothing extreme about putting forward an actual bill (not a Resolution) to combat climate change, develop green energy, and create millions of jobs- in fact it’s smart policy on every level. During the roll out the details were a bit hazy, but the concept is so good that old pros like Markey wanted to join AOC’s cause. So did some of the party’s Presidential candidates too. It seemed like a good idea, not just harmless.

Then of course, came the details. They weren’t so good. The “FAQs” (frequently asked questions) weren’t signed off on by anyone else, and didn’t match the actual resolution. There was talk of income assistance for “those unwilling to work,” a Republican messaging wet dream. Then there was talk of cow farts. Yes, really. And yes, there was mention of eliminating airline travel. Yes, she uses planes regularly. And yes, they included language saying nuclear energy is off the table. It was an ugly “screw up,” one they even tried to claim was doctored- it wasn’t.

There are pretty decent arguments to be had for universal income, cutting back consumption of red meat, cutting back flight traffic, and not making nuclear energy central to our energy future- and nowhere near universal support for doing anything. I doubt that Democrats want to campaign on eliminating the union jobs in the nuclear sector, ending steak and burger consumption, closing airports, and giving tax dollars to “lazy people”- which is exactly how Donald Trump and Republicans will label those ideas, while spending millions of dollars to tell swing voters in Michigan and Pennsylvania just how radical Democrats are. Presented this way, you can’t build majority support for any of it. That’s even more true among swing voters.

So why release this? If you want to believe it was an honest mistake, have at it. Of course, you’re being willfully ignorant though. Why release anything to accompany the actual resolution, which was pretty clear on it’s own? FAQs can be helpful to the press, sure, but why did a draft version exist with a bunch of things not in the actual resolution? Their FAQs describe what might as well have been a different resolution altogether, so why was this draft written in the first place? How was the office staff so incompetent as to release the wrong version? I mean really, they’re calling for a massive overhaul of our energy policies and economy as a whole, but they can’t use a Congressional website correctly? If they’re truly just incompetent in this case, that should worry you too.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that they’re actually not incompetent, this wasn’t a mistake, and this was the plan all along. The idea was to have the entire Democratic “establishment” get behind the ideas that some would call “radical”- because if everyone agrees with AOC (and of course Bernie), then you can’t call them extreme or radical anymore. They’re now the mainstream. Their ideas are mainstreamed by the endorsement of them coming from the rest of the Democratic Party. Try arguing to the press that these other Democrats “didn’t sign onto that,” because they signed onto the actual resolution instead. It’s muddled messaging at best, and impossible at worst. Lefty activists will ask why they oppose the Green New Deal. The press will drag them into the weeds. The GOP will mock them over the details in the FAQs and call them radicals.

Inevitably AOC will eventually endorse her old boss Bernie, in part because she agrees with him, and in part because he’s a nice placeholder until she’s eligible to run herself. When his opponents try to label him as unelectable and extreme, she’ll trot out to his defense and not that they agreed with him, on this and other matters, such as health care. Trump will elevate her in the debate as a representative of the Democratic Party of 2020, because he sees her as vulnerable among the voters he needs. She’ll embrace that image. Everyone will be forced to pick sides. Being that so many Democrats are embracing her now, it will be tough to get back the space later. Welcome to being pinned in the corner.

Re-Alignment

I registered to vote in 2001, as a Democrat. Michael Bloomberg was a Republican, no one was discussing whether or not demographic politics were destiny or not, and Donald Trump beating a Clinton or a Bush for President seemed like a total joke.

The two parties are changing quickly, right before our eyes. The Republican Party of 2001 was very different than 2019. Gone are the aristocratic Bush types at the top. Gone is the globalist view of military engagement and global trade from the Bush days, and in it’s place is Trump isolationist policy. The Republican Party is now a cultural identity party for “traditional” America, stressing nationalism, law and order, and aggressive anti-elitism. They’re both longing for a cultural America that is traditional, but also calling into question the last 80 years of globalism in American foreign policy. This is a far cry from the Republican Party of Bush- a neoconservative foreign policy, pro-big business (which they still mostly are in policy, but not as much rhetoric.), and theocratic morality politics.

The Democratic Party is basically on another planet too. Bill Clinton’s moderation politics are taking a beating from the activists. “Safe, legal, and rare” to describe abortion policy would almost be disqualifying in a primary. The party has moved a solid step left on everything from taxes to guns, from abortion to criminal justice reform, on health care to LGBT rights. Would a Democrat reiterate Bill Clinton’s pronunciation that “the era of big government is over” in a 2022 State of the Union? Would they even consider a balanced budget, such as Clinton oversaw, as a positive? While the reality is that the Democrats have not really moved crazy left as a practical matter, the rhetoric has shifted dramatically. The Democratic Party is abandoning much of the strategic practicality of Clinton and Obama for more ideological, direct appeal to what it sees as it’s base.

Perhaps that is the biggest shift in American politics over the past 18 years- who each party views as it’s base. When I started in politics in 2002, the Rust Belt man in a Ford pick-up truck was a Democrat, or at least a swing voter. The wealthier suburbs of Philadelphia were moderate Republicans. Now that’s switched. For all the talk of rural Republicans and urban, more diverse Democrats, perhaps those changes are minor compared to the exchange of blue collar whites to Republicans, and educated, white collar whites to Democrats. The Democratic Party is now more Starbucks, the Republicans more Dunkin (for the record, I love both.). The Democratic Party is adapting to a coalition of white collar suburban white people joining African-Americans and most every other group that is considered a minority. The Republicans, under the colorful rhetoric of Trump, are welcoming blue collar, lower middle class, Rust Belt whites to their billionaires and traditionalists.

The biggest driver of the political shifts is the way the two parties now view America’s place in the world. Donald Trump’s new base has driven the Republicans away from international trade deals, rhetorically against cheap foreign labor, to want out of NATO, to want to withdraw from treaties such as KORUS, and to want out of conflicts in places like Syria and Afghanistan. The basic tenet of the Trump doctrine is “why are we paying for it” with regards to the world, and for a desire to spend that money at home. Just as dramatic is the shift on the Democratic side. The Democratic Party is suddenly the party of free trade, foreign intervention in places like Syria, and arguing for at least a more liberal border. Republicans are increasingly uninterested in international collaboration with allies like Canada, South Korea, and our traditional EU allies. Democrats aren’t feeling so great about collaborating with nations they see as against their values, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, or Italy. This shift has had impacts both in foreign and domestic policy.

All of this has left some people out of place in their own political parties. Michael Bloomberg, mentioned above, has gone from a Republican, to an independent, to a Democrat. The Blue Dog Democrats are virtually gone away, while there aren’t pro-choice Republicans in Congress anymore. Those pieces of their coalitions have left them, eliminating the base of support for most of those members. They’ve gradually lost primaries to more ideological candidates, and lost general elections because their own voters abandoned them.

The major question for the future is if the left-right divide will break down- will the Bernie voters and Trump voters eventually link up? Both are populists that want to shock the system. One took over their party, the other has not been able to so far. Could they eventually all be in the Republican camp if Democrats continue to reject populism?

We are living through a realignment in our politics that is changing both coalitions. The political parties are not what they were when I registered. If you had told me in 2001 that a Republican President would be for isolationist trade and foreign policies, and that I’d oppose that President like I do, I would not believe you. So imagine America by 2040.

Local Politickin’

There’s an episode early on in “House of Cards” where Congressman Frank Underwood is pulled home to Gaffney, South Carolina to deal with a local dispute over the “Big, Stupid Peach.” Underwood was cranky and mocking the whole time, and really only went because the peach became a controversy. It’s easy to conclude that local politics are small, Petty, and insignificant- and sometimes they are. It’s really hard to make a living running these races, particularly when you factor in the headaches. It wouldn’t be wise to dismiss them like Underwood though.

Local politics are far more important to your life than anything going on at the White House, as we need to remind our angriest activists pretty much every day. The people making zoning and planning decisions in your town are deciding quite literally what your town looks like. Your county government is overseeing tens of millions of dollars on “human services,” which is a fancy way of saying seniors, children, battered women, open green space, the poor, and those who generally need a government. Your roads, the pot holes, the bridges- they were all fixed by local government, or not. Your criminal justice system is administered entirely by local officials- the local police by municipal officials, a local district attorney prosecuting crimes, and local judges overseeing the trial. Your life is not planned and overseen by Washington politicians, but by the local folks making decisions.

Local politics are frustrating though, because they’re as unprofessional as it gets. Activists aren’t interested in staying on message or being strategic. Candidates never get the urgency of raising money and putting together their campaign. Local party leaders are not like dealing with DC and statewide leaders.

It’s important to not ignore local politics though, however frustrating it gets. There’s important elections going on in 2019, long before the Iowa Caucus. Don’t forget all about them to worry about things happening far away from you.

Thinkin’ About The Future

In August of 2002 I came back to my dorm from cross-country practice and saw a flier on my building door looking for interns for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign. I never expected to still be doing campaigns for the 2020 Presidential campaign. Hell, I’m not sure I expected to be alive in 2019, so there’s that.

I’ve seen quite a bit in my political day. I’ve worked for a President, in fact the first black President, something that was just a line in a rap song when I was a kid. I’ve worked for five U.S. Senators (six if I count internships), a Secretary of State, and the first woman nominated for President, twice. I worked for New Jersey’s first African-American Congresswoman and a Bosnian War refugee. My travels have taken me to Waterloo (Iowa, twice), Charlotte (NC), New Brunswick (NJ), Washington (DC), Harrisburg (PA), Nyack (NY), Columbus (OH), Trenton (NJ), the Outer Banks (NC), Philadelphia (PA), Myrtle Beach (SC), Woodbridge (NJ), Pensacola (FL), Mason City (IA), Elizabeth City (NC), Hazleton (PA), Wilkes-Barre (PA), Queens (NY), Stroudsburg (PA), Grinnell (IA), and of course, right here at home in the Lehigh Valley. From electing women as statewide judges to electing friends as my own County Executive, it’s all been fun.

Campaigns are exhausting though, particularly these days. You’re on the road, a lot. Having a “normal” life is impossible. You deal with a lot of overly self-assured jackasses that know everything, and sometimes you can’t do anything about them. I’ve been blessed with mostly great candidates, but sometimes they’re politically incompetent, but still expect you to answer to them, rather than advise them. Dealing with employees can be exhausting. In recent years I’ve mostly kept to myself socially during campaigns. I’ve had lots of fun, amazing stories, but I’m getting a bit older.

I planned on getting out of campaigns after the 2016 election, but it didn’t quite end according to plan. With 2020 fast approaching, I’m seeing another light at the end of the tunnel. This time is probably win or lose though. Running campaigns full time is simply something that I’m aging out of. I won’t exit politics altogether- I could see myself on Capitol Hill, in an Administration, working in a state capitol or local government, consulting full time, running for local office, or working on a specific issue or cause after 2020. I also could see myself working in some other capacity, as a writer, in real estate, financial advising, as a professor, or something I haven’t thought of yet, and doing politics as a part-time thing. I see a transition ahead though. It’s a bit scary. It’s something I just have to do to avoid burning out, and for financial purposes.

Between now and then though is a full cycle. Another shot at Trump is invigorating enough to wake me up everyday. I won’t be able to get out for 2021, both of my local county executives will be up for re-election (I do work on their races). The light’s still pretty far down the tunnel for me. I’m not even totally sure what’s next yet for me in 2019. I do know though that I’m doing a lot of thinking about where my life is going now.

The Sixers Push Their Cards In

I was watching the Sixers get pretty much worked last night by Toronto with my father, and I said the kind of thing you say when your team loses- This should convince the front office to go make a move by Thursday’s trade deadline. By 2am, the Sixers in fact made that move, in a big way. I guess they were convinced.

So last night the Sixers traded for Clippers star Tobias Harris, big man Boban Marjanovic, and bench piece Michael Scott. It’s a solid trio for the Sixers, dramatically improving the line-up, and filling some bench needs. The Sixers paid for it though. Gone are two first round picks, including a protected 2020 pick and the unprotected 2021 pick of Miami. Gone are second round picks from Detroit in 2021 and 2023. Gone is 2018 first round pick Landry Shamet, who had become an important bench piece that provided shooting. Gone is starting forward Wilson Chandler. Gone was bench rotational piece Mike Muscala, a key piece in their front court. The Sixers paid for what they got.

The Sixers now have arguably the best line-up in the East. They have the top scoring line-up in the league. They lack some bench depth, but they will try to upgrade that before the season ends, and that will matter less in the playoffs when they shorten up their rotations. This trade certainly made them stronger.

The Sixers are all in for this season. They clearly believe they can win. Obviously there is a risk to them potentially not re-signing Harris or Jimmy Butler, but that’s the risk you take when you try to win. It’s nice to see a Philly team trying to win.

Democrats Need to be Clear and Honest on Health Care

Medicare for All- what the hell does that mean? Is it socialized medicine? What does it cost? Is it Medicare Advantage? Does the rest of the world have it? Will taxes go up? Will private insurance go away? Once you dig under the buzz words, you realize it’s not quite that clear what this plan is. There could be serious differences between the Democratic candidates on how to do it.

First off, understand the politics- the idea of Obamacare polled really well in 2007 and 2008, when it was buzzwords, talking points, and the abstract, but was a political death sentence by 2010. Calling it “Medicare” polls very well, but understand that this government health care expansion will be a lot different than a health program for seniors. Here are a few facts to understand:

  1. “Medicare for All” is cheaper than our current system, but maybe not for you. A “Medicare for All” government plan is cheaper than our current health care system costs in total. That doesn’t mean *you* would save. For millions of Americans right now, they get their health insurance given to them, or at a greatly reduced cost. If you are currently insured by your employer, or you are on Medicare, or you go to the VA, or you get Medicaid or CHIP, you probably get your insurance mostly free, or already paid into it, or are only paying a portion. If you’re going to expand Medicare to everyone in America, there’s at least a chance that everyone will have to pay more in taxes (better than a chance, but you get me). If you’re getting free or very affordable insurance now, but your taxes would go up for “Medicare for All,” it will cost you more. So yes, this system would be cheaper, but you might pay more.
  2. If you’re expanding health car under Medicare, you have to lift the cap on payroll taxes. Medicare is financed by the payroll tax. If you’re going to insure tens of millions of more people under the Medicare program, you would have to increase the cap on payroll taxes from the first $132,900 it is at this year. This would not effect people making less than $132,900. It would effect wealthier people. If you don’t acknowledge the tax increase is a part of this though, you’re lying.
  3. It’s not “Medicare.” You pay into Medicare through the payroll tax throughout your working career, then receive the benefits when you enroll. For most people, you pay in for about 40 years, then receive the benefits for ten to fifteen years (about life expectancy). Under a program that covers everyone, you would be both paying in and receiving benefits at once. Fiscally, this is an entirely different program. Medicare was created to provide care for elderly, more expensive people, to get them out of the insurance pools, and keep them cheaper. Expanding Medicare to everyone is a very different program.
  4. Almost every developed nation has universal coverage, but not that many have pure single-payer care. If you look across Europe, everyone lives in a country with universal care. Not everybody lives in a single-payer system. Many countries, like Poland for instance, cover all the basics and then lets you buy beyond that for your needs. Everybody in all of these countries can go to the ER with a broken bone and get their care covered. But you don’t just get everything. Some nations have coverage caps, some have limited coverage, and some have other forms of hybrid systems.
  5. Eliminating all private insurance companies or not is a big policy difference. When Senator Harris said she would eliminate private insurers on CNN, some people called that a minor detail. It’s not. Eliminating all private insurers means a fully government run, single-payer system. It means you’re not going to manage the Medicare system through private insurers, or leaving some parts of the system to private insurers. That might be preferable. It’s not minor though.
  6. There are other options, including Medicaid. If the goal is universal insurance, you don’t have to it through Medicare, or even a single-payer system. Some states, most notably Nevada, have considered expanding Medicaid to cover more of their non-Medicare eligible citizens. By leaving Medicare to seniors, the idea is that you’re covering more or all of the cheaper population together, without messing with the Medicare program. Medicaid is able to get comparable outcomes for recipients to Medicare, and do it cheaper, because it’s not covering more sickly seniors. Expanding Medicaid, or expanding it and increasing ACA subsidies for private care, are just a couple of other options beyond “Medicare for All.”
  7. This isn’t socialized medicine. While conservatives may try to scare you by calling this socialized medicine, it is not. This isn’t a takeover of the doctors and hospitals. It’s a potential takeover of the insurance. This is a pretty big difference.
  8. This is super expensive. The cost estimates of this plan are between $3.2 and $3.5 trillion dollars per year. This is over 75% of the entire federal budget right now. You can’t do this with just a few cuts to Defense Spending. The cost of this program is about 450% of the Pentagon Budget. You don’t get there cutting waste. You get there with tax increases.
  9. There are other problems created by killing the insurance industry. So if you get rid of private insurance, what happens next? Where do the workers in that sector of the economy go? Do we hire them all into the government? Do we pay them all unemployment? Do we pay for them all to be re-trained? How about all the retirement funds, public and private, that own stock in insurance companies (likely your’s does)? How do we fix that? There’s unforeseen side issues that come from nationalizing insurance. What’s the plan for them?
  10. The Devil is in the details. When President Obama began his 2010 overhaul of the health care system in 2009, a large majority of Americans supported it. By 2010, they supported it. Then everyone hated the ACA until Trump wanted to repeal it in 2017. Why the swings in mood? People will want to know how any plan effects them. Will they be able to keep their plan? Will their taxes go up? Will they lose their years of paying into the system? The details matter. They move public opinion. Where they aren’t clear, they assume the worst.

The assumption that current positive polling on “Medicare for All” will remain if it actually has a chance to happen are silly at best. If this is the road Democrats want to go down, they better line up all the details, and be honest about them. Failure to do so cost them the Congress in 2010, and could hurt them in 2020 or 2022 now.

In Virginia, View Post-Trump Politics

Like most people, I was horrified by the med school yearbook photo of Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Let me correct that- like most political people. While nearly every major Democrat in Virginia and America has called for Northam to resign, as well as some Republicans, Northam is still living in the Governor’s mansion in Richmond. He’s totally unmoved by the calls for his head. Even after his disaster of a press conference on Saturday, he’s still in office.

So what the hell are we going to do about it? Already the story is being pushed off the front pages, first by the Super Bowl, and now by the State of the Union. More people will announce 2020 Presidential bids, further burying the story. Soon, it will be forgotten outside of Virginia, then even inside. Northam can’t run for re-election anyway, and he will become less and less relevant. What are you going to do about it? Impeach him? Why would the Republicans go along with that, and make his Lt. Governor an incumbent Governor for 2021? They’ll argue he committed no crime- and they’re right. Even if we assume Northam is a full blown racist/Ku Klux Klan man currently, that’s only socially objectionable, not criminal. The picture is incredibly offensive and unworthy of a public official- but what are you going to do about it?

And how about that Lt. Governor, Justin Fairfax? On Friday night, he was the darling of the American left, which of course meant the Republican Party wanted to destroy him. By Sunday night an old accusation of sexual assault was pushed out into the open against Fairfax. Sure, there was nothing but the accuser’s word against his, but Republicans took absolute glee in noting the similarity in this case and that of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Even worse, some are noting that national Democrats shoved Al Franken for a lesser set of accusations, but aren’t pushing Fairfax out. Is any of this fair? No. Are the cases the same? No. It really doesn’t matter to these folks.

But does any of this matter? I guess it depends who you ask. Remember that just about a month before the 2016 Presidential Election the “Access Hollywood Tape” dropped against Donald Trump, where we could hear him say he could “grab ’em by the pussy,” talking about women in general. Against a backdrop of many sexual assault accusations, many assumed he was finished. National Republicans (not for the first time either) called on Trump to drop out. There were open talks about removing him from the GOP ticket. What did the outrage, in many cases for Trump, actually matter? It didn’t. He kept running. He won. In fact, his vote share (46%) was higher than his personal approval, average polling, or really any poll was showing him. Trump simply soldiered on, and all we can tell from the data is that more people were willing to vote for him than we had envisioned beforehand.

In Ralph Northam we see someone adapting to the post-Trump norm, while in Al Franken we don’t. Trump bet that the public didn’t care that he was a bad guy. Northam seems to be taking that same bet. Franken took a throwback to the pre-Trump days, when shame could push a politician out. The idea was that your first act towards forgiveness was to go away. Ralph Northam seems to get that if he resigns, he’s gone for good. Like Trump, he’s betting that people will move on. My guess is that if it works, you are seeing the new norm.

In Justin Fairfax, you are also seeing a challenge to the new norms. Republicans learned in the Franken case that the Democratic Party wanted to be “zero tolerance” on sexual impropriety, and that Franken left because of that. They don’t have the same level of proof in the case of Lt. Governor Fairfax, and so far they have been less successful. If they fail in this case, perhaps this doesn’t become the norm.

In the age of the internet and changing standards of what is and isn’t accepted, I suspect this current mess in Richmond is going to be common for a little while. Perhaps society will eventually become more forgiving of past transgressions and accusations, perhaps they will be even less so. It seems very clear to me though that if Northam survives this week as Governor, he probably survives his term. If he survives his term, the tradition of resigning amidst scandal will be the latest casualty of the Trump world. Right now, I’d probably bet on that.