Sunday, July 14, 2019

There Are At Least Two Things Wrong with Taking the Most Left Positions on Health Care and Immigration

First, and most obviously, votes will be lost in the general election among persuadable voters not in the Democrats' base. No group here is more important than white noncollege women. As Ron Brownstein notes:
"Political strategists in both parties agree that the promise to defend the ACA's guarantees for patients with preexisting conditions was critical to the Democrats' gains in the 2018 midterm elections. In exit polls, nearly three-fifths of voters said they believed Democrats would do a better job protecting patients with preexisting conditions -- and almost 90% of them supported Democratic candidates for the House.
The issue appeared especially important in propelling a modest but measurable Democratic recovery among working-class white voters, especially women. White women without college degrees have been a reliably Republican constituency in recent elections; their support in states such as Michigan, Wisconsin,
Pennsylvania and Ohio was key to Trump's victory in 2016.
But in 2018, those women divided almost in half over whether Democrats or Republicans would do a better job protecting preexisting conditions, according to detailed exit poll results provided by Edison Research, which conducts the survey for a partnership of media organizations that includes CNN.
Fully 90% of the working-class white women who trusted Democrats more on that issue also voted Democratic for the House."
Given that the Trump administration has doubled down on getting rid of the ACA, we now have a situation where the Supreme Court may be deciding, in effect, whether to get rid of the guarantees for patients with pre-existing conditions right at the 2020 campaign is in full swing. Sounds like an opportunity to keep those voters and get more. instead, a number of Democratic candidates propose to have a big argument about getting rid of private health insurance. Rahm Emanuel--who I don't often agree with--has the right of it here:
"Our message is if you work hard and have health insurance, not that we're going to improve it, we're going to take it away; but if you are undocumented we are going to give it to you."
This makes no sense. Don't these folks remember the 2018 election--a very successful, very high turnout election--and what Democrats actually ran on? Matt Viser of the Post notes:
"Democrats once touted their defense of those with preexisting conditions — a stance supported by the vast majority of Americans — but many leading presidential candidates now support ending the private insurance coverage on which most of the country relies. Democrats used to focus almost exclusively on reuniting migrant children and their families and protecting undocumented immigrants brought here by their parents; now many of the candidates are openly espousing making illegal border crossing a civil offense rather than a criminal one....
Last year, Democrats were rigorously disciplined with a consistent message, telling voters in race after race around the country that Republicans were set on destroying President Barack Obama’s health-care law and stripping coverage from needy Americans. In television ads and debates, Democrats made the case that Republicans were unfairly demonizing them as a party in favor of open borders. That successful strategy is, at least, threatened."
It makes you wonder: can't anyone here play this game?
But that brings me to the second thing wrong with taking the most left positions on these issues. The assumption always seems to be that, while you might lose some voters by taking these positions, you will more than make up for these losses by a tsunami of turnout from the Democratic base--young people, nonwhite voters, committed progressives, etc.
Oh really? Why should we believe that? 2018 was a fabulously high turnout election and, as noted above, it featured much more moderate positions on all these issues. And how do we know that, say, black voters will turn out for Medicare for All or decriminalizing the border? Or even Latinos for that matter. From a Karen Tumulty piece in the Post:
"While the Democrats hold an enormous electoral advantage with Hispanic voters, their turnout has traditionally lagged that of other ethnic groups. But last November’s midterms saw a 50 percent increase in Latino participation compared with the midterm elections four years earlier.
Despite expectations that Latinos will be a crucial constituency in 2020, LULAC President Domingo Garcia told me that he thinks Democratic candidates made a mistake at a recent presidential debate. All 10 candidates who were onstage for the second night of debate raised their hands to show they would support providing government health coverage to people who are in the country illegally. Most of the others who are running have also said they would support that idea.
Given the fact that many U.S. citizens — a disproportionate number of them Hispanic — still lack coverage, “that was not a good general-election position to begin with, and it does not win them many votes in the Latino community,” Garcia said....
Of late, there has been a rush to call for decriminalization of unauthorized border crossings, after that issue became a flash point between Castro and O’Rourke during the first presidential debate. O’Rourke argued that there are other ways to prevent family separations; Castro later chided that his fellow Texan “needs to do his homework.”
Cecilia Muñoz, who was a top Obama White House aide, told my Post colleagues that even having that discussion is playing into Trump’s hands.
“It allows him to make a claim that he is already making, which is Democrats are for an open border,” she said. “And it makes it harder to explain why that is not true.”
Look, I'm a pretty left kind of guy myself. But I really want to win this election. Really, really. Michael Harrington always talked about being the left wing of the possible. Alas, I fear many activists and candidates are paying more attention to the "left" part of that formulation than the "possible" part.
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On immigration and health care, many of the party’s presidential candidates have moved into territory that could play into Republican criticisms.

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