Former Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel wrote an op-ed this week begging 2020 Democrats to turn away from their Medicare-for-All plans. Breaking sharply from the plans endorsed by frontrunners like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Emanuel said that an embrace of this sort of universal healthcare was just the opening Republicans need to win the next election.
“Medicare-for-all is guaranteed to frighten many among the vast majority of Americans who already have health coverage. It would require a disastrously unpopular tax increase on the middle class. And it would unite a world of the special interests against us,” Emanuel lamented.
“This dog just won’t hunt,” he continued. “Perhaps worse, we cannot afford to try and then fail. Losing on health care will make it more difficult for us to make progress on education, the environment or other social justice issues. We need to chart a different path. So let’s use history and context as a guide.”
Emanuel went on to express bewilderment at the Democrats and their focus on expanding health insurance coverage at a time when 90% of the public is already covered by a plan. He advised that the smarter move would be for 2020 Democrats to focus on the concern of expanding costs, which are what most Americans are troubled by when they consider their health coverage.
But Emanuel’s concerns go further, demanding to know exactly how the next Democratic president would even turn Medicare-for-All into law.
“Please explain to me exactly how we get that bill through the Senate?” he wrote. “Remember, in 2010, we had 58 Democratic senators — yet we weren’t even able to get a vote on a public option. Even if we draw a royal flush in next year’s election, we’ll have only 51 votes. Here’s an offer: You identify for me the nine Senate Republicans who are going to vote to break a filibuster against a single-payer system and I’ll publicly declare that New York’s thin-crust cardboard pizza is better than Chicago’s deep dish.”
Emanuel may be woefully mistaken about pizza, but he’s dead-on when it comes to Medicare-for-All. Far be it from us to talk Democrats back from the edge of oblivion, but they are making this exact mistake on any number of political third rail issues. On immigration. On healthcare. On abortion. On so many other things. They are well outside mainstream consensus on these issues, and it is impossible to believe that it won’t cost them next November at the ballot box.
Emanuel is one of a growing number of Democrats trying their hardest to pull the party back from the radical edge. On the one hand, we hope they’re successful, simply because we don’t like to imagine a future where this current fascination with socialism takes root in a systematic, nation-destroying way. On the other hand, we wouldn’t mind if Democrats follow this wild horse right over the cliff if it means we get four more years of Trump.