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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Burden of Proof

All of a sudden, two bloggers I respect, Kevin Drum and Matt Yglesias, seem to be identifying me as a rare and lonely voice who needs to explain why Democrats shouldn’t unanimously embrace a single-player approach to universal health coverage. And some people say the DLC isn’t relevant any more.In my public exchange of posts with Kevin late last night, I suggested that a whole lot of credible people across the range of party opinion didn’t think much of the single-payer approach, and sure didn’t think it was the only way to get to universal coverage. I mentioned the six leading candidates for the presidential nomination in 2004, and asked: “Were they all compromising wimps? Did they all privately acknowledge that single-payer was the goal, and just cringe from saying it publicly?”Today Kevin did a post that answered these questions affirmatively:

Here’s my guess: in private, I’ll bet all of these gentlemen do acknowledge that a simple single-payer national healthcare plan is the best policy. But for tactical political reasons, they think it’s more effective to talk about incremental solutions.

Well, that’s a pretty strong statement to make about six very different politicians, eh? I mean, did each and every one of them, from Dean to Lieberman, sit down with his advisors and basically say: “Dennis Kucinich is right, of course. But we need to be tactical about this, and in fact, that means talking more, not less, about the value of private health insurance in a universal system.”I don’t much see it, but there are a lot of people out there, including some bloggers, who were closer to the campaigns than I was, so how about a little help? Hey, netroots Deaniacs: did the Doctor deliberately wimp out on health care policy as a “tactical” thing, in the midst of an audacious campaign to defy the Washington Conventional Wisdom? Or did he actually think Dr. Dinosaur was a decent model for where we ought to go nationally on health care? You tell me, and tell Kevin.Matt Yglesias provides a more direct challenge, accepting my suggestion that the differences among Democrats is about means rather than ends, and expressing disappointment that I did not make a plenary argument for alternatives to single-payer.I’ll be happy to respond in a day or two, when I can digest and deal with my new responsibilities as a lonely progressive defender of a path to univeral coverage that includes choice, competition and individual responsibility. But the burden of proof among progressives on heath care remains with those who think the single-payer approach–so seductively simple, but so systematically at odds with past Democratic and national principles about health care–is the self-evident Silver Bullet. “Everybody who denies it believes it in their hearts” is not an argument that meets this burden of proof.

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