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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Longer Term Strategy Tip for Dems From SD and Other Red States

It’s a frustrating quest, looking for hints of hope for Democrats because the media is rife with downer articles and perspectives regarding the Democrats’ future. Bear in mind, however, that a lot of media coverage of politics is rooted in me-tooism, wolfpack and lazy journalism. True, all the credible data is pretty tough for Dems right now, but here and there we can find small bits of encouragement, some that shine a light on possible paths forward.

One such article, Jon Skolnik’s “South Dakota voters overwhelmingly reject amendment that would make it harder to expand Medicaid: The amendment would have required support from 60% voters, instead of a simple majority, to expand to program” at Salon, illuminates a possible strategy for Democrats beyond the midterm elections. Some excerpts:

South Dakota voters overwhelmingly shut down a measure that would have made it a requirement for ballot proposals, like expanding Medicaid, to garner support from 60% of the state’s electorate as opposed to a simple majority.

The Republican-backed measure, dubbed “Constitutional Amendment C,” was defeated by a two-to-one margin. It comes ahead of a Democratic-led state referendum to expand Medicaid coverage for the state’s residents, as Forbes notes.

Yes, that South Dakota, one of the most conservative states in the midwest. There’s more:

According to MSNBC, South Dakota is one of twelve states that have recently refused to expand Medicaid. But The Washington Post reports that it has the highest chance of passing the provision out of any of them. The move would provide roughly health coverage to roughly 42,000 South Dakotans.

“Today, the people of South Dakota have preserved their right to use direct democracy,” Kelly Hall, executive director of The Fairness Project, said, according to Forbes. “This victory will benefit tens of thousands of South Dakotans who will choose to use the ballot measure process to increase access to health care for their families and neighbors, raise wages, and more policies that improve lives,” she added. “We look forward to what’s next in South Dakota: an aggressive campaign to expand Medicaid in the state.”

And it’s not just one conservative state. As Skolnik reports:

South Dakota would not be the first state to bypass its GOP-led legislature or Republican governor on the issue of health insurance. Back in 2018, voters in Nebraska, Idaho and Utah passed ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid’s coverage. And in 2017, Maine did just the same thing.

Several polls show that voters in states with GOP governors and Republican-led legislatures support Medicaid. Just this February, for instance, a poll revealed that seven out of ten voters in Alabama support the program’s expansion. Another poll from 2021 found that 54% of the Florida electorate feels the same.

Last year, the Biden administration provided states with added incentives to expand Medicaid as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which allowed states to benefit from a revamped federal matching program.

“In addition to the 90% federal matching funds available under the [Affordable Care Act] for the expansion population, states also can receive a 5 percentage point increase in their regular federal matching rate for 2 years after expansion takes effect,” the Kaiser Family Foundation says in a 2021 analysis. “The additional incentive applies whenever a state newly expands Medicaid and does not expire. The new incentive is available to the 12 states that have not yet adopted the expansion as well as Missouri and Oklahoma.

Medicaid expansion is probably not going to help Dems much in the midterms. But looking ahead, it’s encouraging to know that red state voters do not wholeheartedly embrace the full GOP agenda for screwing  low-income people out of medical care, so Republican politicians can give the wealthy even larger tax cuts. Democratic campaigns take note

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