Budowsky: Why Warren worries many Dems
If there is a worst case nightmare that should worry every progressive and Democrat, which is given credence by recent polling, it is that Democrats win the popular vote in 2020 but lose the electoral vote and key House and Senate races in battleground states and districts — which happened in 2016.
I strongly urged Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to run for president because he offered, in my view, the best combination of a principled and courageous progressive career with a long history of repeatedly winning elections in the tough battleground state of Ohio. Brown talks the talk, walks the walk and wins the votes which are qualities Democrats need in a 2020 nominee.
The period between the recent October Democratic debate and the coming November Democratic debate creates the crucible of an intense political test for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), another candidate I am considering supporting.
The challenge for Warren during this period — which creates significant worry among many Democrats and will be a major topic in the November debate — is that she is taking a small number of highly controversial positions that create extreme political danger to her campaign in critical electoral vote states and threaten a number of key Democratic House and Senate candidates in battleground states and districts.
The most dangerous position Warren is taking would terminate private health insurance, now held by more than 150 million Americans, in her version of a “Medicare for All” plan.
Polls show that when Democrats offer consumers the opportunity to buy into Medicare or a Medicare-like public option voter support for this is sky high, often above 60 percent. However, if Democrats offer the same plan but add that all private insurance policies would be terminated, including policies negotiated through unions or employers, regardless of what workers and consumers want, public support collapses and public opposition soars.
For Democrats who want to win the presidency with a majority of electoral votes, maintain control of the House and win control of the Senate, the notion of insulting and angering more than 150 million voters by throwing out their current insurance policies, against their will, is sheer political suicide. It will make President Trump’s reelection significantly more likely and Democratic prospects for winning control of the House and Senate dramatically more difficult.
Why would any Democrat want to make Medicare and health care, which should be golden winning issues for Democrats, dangerous political weapons helping Trump and Republicans?
A great progressive dream of making affordable health care a right, and available to every American, can be 100 percent achieved without banning private insurance and destroying Democrats politically with millions of voters they desperately need to win, as Democrats learned the hard way in 2016.
Warren could run as a Teddy Roosevelt trust-busting progressive populist without attacking the consumer right to choose insurance. Contrary to the fear and loathing toward Warren from some on Wall Street, if any major technology or other large companies are broken up for antitrust reasons their net market value would probably soar, which often happens in such cases when high-value stock spinoffs are created.
Warren could expand the Roosevelt theme by challenging Trump aggressively on national security which would echo the views of countless veterans, military communities and leading retired military figures who want to unify the democratic alliance, defend democracy, deter war, protect peace and enhance security.
The wide and deep unpopularity of Trump offers Democrats an extraordinary and generation-defining opportunity to create a new political, governing and realigning progressive majority.
However, Democrats should be clearly aware and deeply alarmed when polls show that the large Democratic lead in national polling evaporates almost entirely in key battleground and electoral vote states, and in key states and districts that will determine which party controls the presidency, House, Senate and federal judiciary.
These are issues that concern many Democrats about the Warren campaign. She would help her cause dramatically and Democrats nationally by addressing them quickly, cogently and effectively.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.