You only need to pay attention to the dynamics of the Eighth District congressional race to understand why Republicans are worried about holding the U.S. House. The GOP’s attack machine is focused on DFLer Joe Radinovich’s old parking tickets, while Radinovich himself is talking about health care.
Candidates from both parties are confirming from the field what the polls have been saying for months. Right now, Americans are most worried about the future of health care— and that’s a good playing field for Democrats at a time when many Americans rightly see the GOP as the biggest threat to their health care access.
The public’s angst over health care was fueled this summer when the Trump administration, in a highly-unusual move, opted not to defend a portion of the Affordable Care Act that, among other things, requires insurance companies to provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. That provision, and others, is under assault by nearly two dozen Republican attorneys general who have worked in league with GOP leaders in Congress to try to undermine the ACA in the courts.
Since passage of the ACA eight years ago, insurance companies have been prohibited from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and it’s one of the most popular aspects of the law with the public. Going back to the bad old days, as the Trump administration and GOP members of Congress want, could deny coverage, or sharply raise the cost of coverage, for as many as 130 million Americans.
During recent candidate forums, Radinovich has kept the focus on health care reform, including advancing toward a single-payer Medicare-for-all system, like seniors in the U.S. already enjoy. The plan being advanced by leaders like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders would not only expand Medicare eligibility to everyone, it would expand the kind of coverage available, to services like dental and eye care.
The concept is popular with the public and, for the first time, Democrats are really starting to talk seriously about it.
Republicans, meanwhile, have put themselves in a box on the issue. When the Democrats first started talking about a single-payer approach in the 1990s, the Republicans responded with a market-based counterproposal which ultimately became the basis for the ACA. Ever since President Obama proposed the Republican plan, of course, the GOP has falsely vilified it as a “huge government takeover of health care” and its repeal has been the number one organizing principle of every GOP campaign since.
Today, however, the GOP is facing the same problem as the dog who finally caught the car— what now? And it exposed the GOP as the party of “No Ideas” on the health care front.
Radinovich has called out his opponent, Pete Stauber, on the issue at every candidate forum this fall, and Stauber often has little to say except to attack Radinovich over the cost of the Medicare-for-all proposal, which Radinovich supports, or note that Radinovich was in the Legislature when the state created MNsure, the statewide healthcare exchange, which had a noticeably rocky start-up.
In other words, Stauber is reacting to the issue like every other Republican right now— with absolutely nothing of substance. Stauber, like the rest of his party, has no solution at all to the issue— other than trying to destroy the current system, which despite its many flaws, does manage to give affordable health care access to tens of millions of Americans who didn’t have it before. It’s perfectly in keeping with a party that has made mean-spiritedness their lodestar.
President Trump responded to the growing GOP concern over the issue by laying out talking points in a remarkable editorial in last week’s USA Today— remarkable in the sense that any credible newspaper could publish such a steaming pile of... need I say more? The editorial was so rife with falsehoods that media fact-checkers’ pants caught on fire just from reading it. One of them said that virtually every sentence in the op-ed has an inaccuracy or mischaracterization. In other words, it was classic Trump.
Trump, of course, is desperate to keep the House, and its ability to investigate his corrupt administration, in the hands of people he can control. And right now, it appears that the GOP’s wrecking ball approach to health care is the single biggest threat to Republican rule.
By playing offense, for a change, the Democrats have put themselves in a much stronger position on a key issue that Americans care about and have opted for simplicity over the convoluted health care plans proposed by the Clintons in the 1990s, and President Obama in 2009. The ACA, with its thousands of pages of complex legalese, was picture perfect for GOP attacks. Government takeover! Death panels! You name it, the GOP trotted it out.
But Medicare-for-all? Gee, how many seniors do you know who want out of Medicare?
Trump, in his USA Today op-ed, falsely accused Democrats of wanting to destroy Medicare and the entire health care system. Under the Democrat’s plan, writes Trump, Medicare would be eliminated and Americans would be prohibited from enrolling in private health insurance plans, which “would inevitably lead to the massive rationing of health care.”
At the same time, writes Trump, “Doctors and hospitals would be put out of business. Seniors would lose access to their favorite doctors. There would be long wait lines for appointments and procedures. Previously covered care would effectively be denied.”
All of these statements are, in fact, false. Medicare-for-all, as proposed by Sen. Sanders and others would do the exact opposite of what the president described. But while the Republicans have had success vilifying past Democratic health care proposals, they’re likely to find tougher going this time. That’s because Americans are familiar with Medicare. They know that it doesn’t put doctors and hospitals out of business. Indeed, most of the hospitals and doctors serving northeastern Minnesota exist today largely because of Medicare. Seniors know that Medicare gives them free access to the doctors of their choice. Extending that right to all Americans doesn’t take it away from seniors, and anyone with common sense knows that.
Which is probably one reason we’re hearing an awful lot about Joe Radinovich’s parking tickets.
One thing’s for sure. Pete Stauber sure doesn’t want to talk about health care.