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The Democrats have become socialists

Dana Milbank on

In the short term, I've argued, this development is a bad thing for Democrats. The nation's focus has been on divisions among Republicans and their inability to enact any sort of agenda under President Trump. The single-payer issue highlights Democratic divisions and united Republicans.

Notably, only one Democrat who faces a competitive re-election, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), signed on with Sanders. The socialized-medicine bill is popular with the Democratic base but is a liability for Democratic candidates in the swing districts and Republican states that Democrats need to win to retake the House and Senate.

The divisions were on display Wednesday: As Harris spoke, a member of the left-wing group Code Pink held up a large cutout of the head of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is up for re-election and doesn't support the Sanders bill. Beneath Feinstein's photo were the words "Healthcare Denier."

The Republican National Committee, seizing the rare opportunity to play offense, sent out a news release and a video attacking the plan: "Legislation does NOT include how to pay for the $32 trillion program … Plans of 156M(!!) Americans would be upended." And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), announcing yet another attempt at repealing Obamacare on Wednesday, tried to use the Sanders plan to revive the moribund effort. He said his bill was Republicans' "best and only chance" to prevent single-payer health care.

It's not hard to see Graham's prophecy coming true over time, particularly if Republicans, unable to replace Obamacare, continue to sabotage the program and let it fall apart, leaving millions without health care. Republicans have another problem fighting single-payer care now. Because they called Obamacare "socialized medicine," even though it's a market-based plan, they have nothing worse to fire at Democrats for embracing the real thing.

Sanders lost the nomination battle to Hillary Clinton (who favored a more incremental approach to health care and gives the single-payer debate little mention in her new book about the campaign). But he seems to be winning the war over the direction of the Democratic agenda. Sanders now has 35 percent of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and some of the biggest names in the party, embracing his call. So when he predicts, as he did Wednesday, that "this nation, sooner than people believe, will in fact pass a Medicare-for-All, single-payer system," it doesn't sound as crazy as it once did.

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Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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