Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has floated the idea of single-payer health care as a litmus test for would-be Democrat lawmakers. There’s surely support for this within the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, but it seems not all Democrats are eager to embrace the left’s holy grail of healthcare — particularly those hoping to hold onto seats in red (or reddish) states, such as Colorado and Missouri.
As Ed Morrissey writes over at Hot Air, Democrat Senator Michael Bennet voiced some doubt over the prospect at a town hall event earlier this week. Speaking to an audience in Greeley, Colorado, on Monday, Bennet said he hoped that single-payer wouldn’t turn into a litmus test for Democrats, preferring instead to focus on programs already in place:
“I think we should have a discussion about how to expand Medicare, so that more people can be part of it or maybe be able to buy it and how to do the same with Medicaid.”
Some might question whether there’s a meaningful distinction between “expansion” and single-payer, or if the former won’t inevitably lead to the latter. Senator Bennet may be trying to have his cake and eat it, too. (Shocking, right?!) As Ed rightly notes:
Greeley’s in the middle of Trump country in Colorado; he beat Hillary by over 30,000 votes out of roughly 123,000 cast. Progressives in Denver and Boulder counties will undoubtedly not cotton to that kind of talk about single-payer, but they’re pretty clearly the fringe in Colorado on this issue.
While Bennet isn’t up for re-election until 2022, he’s clearly cognizant of his constituency’s lack of enthusiasm for universal health care and hedging his bets accordingly. Their recent resounding rejection of ColoradoCare makes clear that Colorado voters might not be so keen on Sanders’ vision.
Meanwhile, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is up for re-election next year. And in a state that went for Donald Trump by 19 points, she’s tiptoeing a verbal tightrope on the issue. Like Bennet, she’s suggested “simply” expanding Medicaid, but she’s also declined to affirmatively rule out single-payer. Her waffling has opened the door for a primary challenger who is all-in on single-payer, Angelica Earl.
So Dems like Bennet and McCaskill may not be willing to dance wholeheartedly to Sanders’ single-payer tune, but it’s rather interesting — if not entertaining — watching them attempt to court his wing of the party without alienating the rest of their constituents.