Medicare For All: Progressive Campaign Killer

Pundits have a ready explanation when one of their favorites loses or ends a campaign: The voters just didn't get to know the candidate the way media do. He or she was too wonky, or eager to please, or insular, or revealing, or uncertain for the masses. The electoral process made it impossible for him or her to connect with voters. The classic example is Hillary Clinton, who has reintroduced herself to the public umpteen times over the decades. A friend who knows her once told me I would like Clinton if only I got to meet her informally. I had a good laugh at that one.

A similar lament greeted the news that Kamala Harris had dropped out of the Democratic primary. Last year CNN ranked Harris first among the contenders. Now it's back to the Senate. The Washington Free Beacon compiled a short video of media types saddened by Harris's departure. A New York Times op-ed asked, "Did We Ever Know the Real Kamala Harris?" Writers for the Washington Post said that Harris failed because she lacked "a theory of the case" and wasn't able "to explain why she was running for president." Yes, it helps to have a reason for your candidacy beyond media reports that you check all the right boxes. But the argument that Harris flopped because of a failure to communicate lets her off easy.

The Times piece didn't mention the policy initiative upon which Harris launched her campaign: Bernie Sanders's Medicare for All legislation that would eliminate private and employer-based health insurance. Harris signed on as a cosponsor to the bill last April. It's haunted her ever since. Medicare for All might look like the sort of "big, structural change" that sets progressive hearts aflutter. For most voters it causes arrhythmia.

The proposal is liberals' fool's gold. It appears valuable but is actually worthless. It gets the progressive politician coming and going: Not only do voters recoil at the notion of having their insurance canceled, but candidates look awkward and inauthentic when they begin to move away from the unpopular idea they mistakenly embraced. That's what happened to Harris earlier this year, and is happening to Elizabeth Warren today.

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