Monday, November 11, 2019

Elizabeth Warren Too Far Left?

You don't say?

At LAT, "Does her healthcare plan make Warren too liberal to win?":

WASHINGTON  —  Among her many proposals, an interviewer asked Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which three would she like to sign into law first?

Her anti-corruption plan, an end to the Senate filibuster and a wealth tax, the Massachusetts senator responded Thursday to Angela Rye, the liberal activist and CNN commentator.

Notice something missing?

Warren never wanted health care to dominate her campaign. After a week in which her detailed, sweeping Medicare for all plan has done exactly that, she’d still prefer to focus elsewhere.

The issue threatens significant harm to her presidential ambitions. Her inability to escape it provides a clear lesson in the power that activists wield to box in candidates on issues they care about.


In 2018, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) gave clear instructions about healthcare to her candidates: Put Republicans on the defensive; focus on GOP efforts to wipe out protections for people with preexisting health problems; don’t get drawn into a debate over Medicare for all.

That strategy worked: Democrats swept to a majority in the House, capturing 40 seats — one of the largest electoral waves since World War II — and healthcare played a major role.

That game plan remains available to the Democratic presidential candidates; the Trump administration has given them plenty of ammunition. For example, administration lawyers in July asked a federal court to declare the Affordable Care Act invalid — protections for preexisting conditions and all — and a decision in that case could come any day.

Instead, the candidates have largely done the opposite of what Pelosi recommended. They’ve occasionally attacked Trump over his efforts to take health coverage away from millions of potential voters, but they’ve more often gone after each other on their respective plans to expand coverage.

The path they’ve taken illustrates a key dynamic that shapes primary campaigns, often regardless of candidates’ wishes, said Patrick J. Egan, a political scientist at New York University who studies the way parties define themselves to voters through ownership of specific issues.

“Both parties’ coalitions include single-issue activists” who “propel policy agendas and major legislation that contributes substantially to the party’s brand,” Egan said in an email.

That can help a party cement its position because the public generally trusts each party more on the issues it “owns,” such as “terrorism and crime for the Republicans and the environment and health care for the Democrats,” he said.

But that can be a two-edged sword. Activists “wield an immense amount of influence in party primaries” because they can help marshal volunteers, grassroots donors and energy, Egan noted. At the same time, however, they push policies that are “often more extreme than the public wants” — huge tax cuts for the wealthy, in the case of Republicans, for example, and Medicare for all in the current Democratic debate.

What’s the evidence that Medicare for all is “more extreme” than voters want? Some of the best information comes from a new study of voters in four key electoral battlegrounds — Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota — that the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cook Political Report released Thursday.

Trump carried three of those four states in 2016 and almost surely needs to win them again for reelection. Currently, he’s deeply unpopular in the states he won: 57% disapprove of him in Wisconsin; 58%, in Michigan; 61%, in Pennsylvania, the survey found. Across the four states, half of voters say they “strongly disapprove” of Trump.

The poll also found Democrats have an edge in enthusiasm in those states and that Trump is the biggest motivator for voters.

Another piece of good news for Democrats: Health care ranks with the economy as the most important issue for voters in all four states, and a majority of voters disapprove of how Trump has handled the issue.

The bad news? A majority of voters in those states also say that a national Medicare for all plan that would eliminate private insurance — the sort of plan Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders advocate — would be a “bad idea”: 56% in Pennsylvania, 58% in Michigan, 59% in Wisconsin, 60% in Minnesota.

Even among Democratic voters, Medicare for all is not a top priority: About 60% of Democrats in the four states call it a good idea, but that’s notably less than the support for proposals such as a path to citizenship for undocumented residents or a ban on assault weapons.

Warren’s a smart politician, and for months she steered as clear of the healthcare debate as she could. Even as her advocacy of highly specific policy ideas fueled her steady rise in the Democratic race, she demurred when pressed on the specifics of healthcare.

“No one’s raised it,” she told reporters early this year when asked why she hadn’t released a specific healthcare plan. The consistent message from Warren’s campaign was that Medicare for all was “Bernie’s issue,” not theirs...