I wrote a few days ago that Hillary Clinton has been selling herself as the pragmatic progressive, arguing that an incremental approach to change will get better results in the long run than Bernie Sanders’s Hail Mary promises. But this weekend she seems to have gone from being the “yes we can, eventually” candidate to the “no we can’t” candidate.
“I want you to understand why I am fighting so hard for the Affordable Care Act,” she said at Grand View University after hearing from a woman who spoke about her daughter receiving cancer treatment thanks to the health care law. “I don’t want it repealed, I don’t want us to be thrown back into a terrible, terrible national debate. I don’t want us to end up in gridlock. People can’t wait!”
She added, “People who have health emergencies can’t wait for us to have a theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.”
She didn’t specifically say that the U.S. will “never, ever” get single-payer health care, but that’s how she’s being quoted. David Atkins wrote,
Clinton is offering what seems to be a false choice: advocating for single-payer healthcare doesn’t mean that the Affordable Care Act isn’t protected. Presumably, a Sanders administration would fight to protect the Affordable Care Act just as stridently as a Clinton administration would until and unless a superior replacement were passed.
I could respect her if she said that a true national, taxpayer-funded health care system is not going to happen in the near future in our current political climate. I don’t think it will, either. But never, ever? That’s not incrementalism; that’s surrender.
Brian Beutler thoughtfully deconstructs what’s really going on in the Dem campaign. The real argument for HRC all along has been that she’s the one who is electable. Sanders is too big a gamble. But is this true? Beutler says the pragmatists “must demonstrate that he is likely to lose to a Republican nominee, where Clinton is likely to win.” As it is, everybody’s going by what’s in his (or her) gut. Nobody really knows. Certainly Hillary Clinton has some big vulnerabilities, even if her supporters refuse to acknowledge them.
Especially if it turns out that Donald Trump really will be the Republican nominee, I think it’s safe to say all bets are off.
And if we call the electability argument a wash, which candidate is the better champion for progressivism?
It’s true that single-payer health insurance and free public college aren’t likely to become federal law even if Sanders wins the presidency. But by the same token, neither are Clinton’s plans to improve Obamacare, and provide debt-free college and paid family leave.
Clinton’s agenda would become politically viable if Democrats were to somehow reclaim the House and Senate during her time in office–her proposals are designed to reflect party consensus, while Sanders’s platform reflects the consensus of just one of the party’s wings.
But if we’re imagining both of their agendas as opening bids in negotiations with Congress, why fault Sanders for not negotiating with himself? Ask a future Democratic Congress for single payer and a $15 minimum wage and you might get laughed at– but you also might get the public option and a bump to $12. Ask it for the public option and a $12 minimum wage, as Clinton might, and you’ll get a fair hearing from the outset, but you might end up with advancements barely worth fighting for. President Obama, as Sanders is fond of noting, negotiated with himself, and progressives paid an unknowable price as a result.
My concerns also.
Odds are still very high that Hillary Clinton will be the nominee. I wish I felt better about that than I do.