If you watched the first Democratic presidential debates last night, you probably noticed that the excitement on the stage increased dramatically when the topic turned to health care reform. Cara Voght’s “We Just Got a Ton of Clarity on Where the Democrats Stand on Medicare for All” rolled it out at Mother Jones: “Twenty minutes into the first night of the first 2020 Democratic debate, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt asked a straightforwards yes or no question of the field: “Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government run plan?”…Elizabeth Warren’s hand shot up immediately from the center of the stage. It was a hand many progressives had been waiting to see. The Massachusetts senator has defined her run for the White House with a bevy of detailed plans, but her stance on health care had been a bit more elusive. “There are a lot of different ways to get there,” she told the New York Times without specifically naming the single-payer plan pushed by her 2020 rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders. “‘Medicare for All’ has a lot of different paths.”…But she couldn’t have been clearer when she explained her answer from the debate stage on Wednesday night. “I’m with Bernie on Medicare for All,” she said. She added that the profit-driven private health care industry had left families rising premiums “rising premiums, rising copays, and fighting with insurance companies…Medicare for All solves that problem,” she explained from the stage.”
Voght continues, “But Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—the only other candidate to raise his hand in response to Holt’s question—were in the minority. Most of the rest of the candidates appeared to coalesce around Medicare for America instead, a universal health care plan authored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). It would offer a comprehensive federal insurance option to uninsured Americans, while allowing those who have employer-provided insurance to keep it if they choose. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke voiced support for it, noting that it would allow anyone who needs insurance to easily obtain it. “But if you’re a member of a union, and you negotiated for a health care plan that you like because it works for you and your family, you’re able to keep it,” O’Rourke said.” All the candidates on stage appeared ready and eager to flesh out their views on the topic, and there were no gaffes.
Who got to talk the most? Erin Doherty has a chart for that at FiveThirtyEight:
Number of words spoken by each candidate during night one of the first Democratic debate
“WHEREAS, The Democratic Party and its allies spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the issue of abortion during the 2022 midterms, concealing their extremism while mischaracterizing and vilifying pro-life Republican candidates; and
“WHEREAS, Instead of fighting back and exposing Democratic extremism on abortion, many Republican candidates failed to remind Americans of our proud heritage of challenging slavery, segregation, and the forces eroding the family and the sanctity of human life, thereby allowing Democrats to define our longtime position; therefore, be it
“RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee urges all Republican pro-life candidates, consultants, and other national Republican Political Action Committees to remember this proud heritage, go on offense in the 2024 election cycle, and expose the Democrats’ extreme position of supporting abortion on-demand up until the moment of birth, paid for by the taxpayers, even supporting discriminatory abortions such as gender selection or when the child has been diagnosed with Down syndrome.”
In states where Republicans have the power to set abortion policy, the RNC doesn’t want any namby-pamby compromises allowing the majority of abortions to proceed (despite its characterization of Democrats as the real “extremists”):
“RESOLVED, The Republican National Committee urges Republican lawmakers in state legislatures and in Congress to pass the strongest pro-life legislation possible — such as laws that acknowledge the beating hearts and experiences of pain in the unborn — underscoring the new relics of barbarism the Democratic Party represents as we approach the 2024 cycle.”
If you aren’t familiar with the rhetorical stylings of the anti-abortion movement, the “relics of barbarism” business is an effort to tie legalized abortion to the slavery and polygamy condemned by the original Republicans of the 19th century (who would probably view today’s race-baiting GOP with a jaundiced eye). The “beating heart” reference is an endorsement of “heartbeat” bills banning abortion once fetal cardiac activity is detectable, roughly at six weeks of pregnancy or before many women even know they’re pregnant.
The resolution is really the announcement of a new hunt for RINOs on the topic of abortion. Some in the RNC worry that their politicians will become squishy on reproductive rights because their constituents (and many swing voters) don’t favor abortion bans and regret the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, as shown by 2022’s pro-choice winning streak on ballot measures and general Republican underperformance. This pushback by the RNC parallels the anti-abortion movement’s efforts to make extreme abortion positions (such as a national abortion ban) a litmus test in the 2024 Republican primaries, especially at the presidential level.
Will this counterattack stem the panicky retreat of Republican politicians who care more about winning elections and cutting taxes than “saving the babies,” as the anti-abortion activists would put it? I don’t know. But at this point, it’s another sign that the Dobbs decision wasn’t quite the clear-cut victory for the forced-birth lobby that it initially appeared to be.