A very strange thing happened to me last month on Twitter. As the debate over the AHCA was raging, nearly everyone could read the tea leaves that the bill would fail. Liberals crowed and added Trump’s health care failure to his growing list of failures as president. Tired of all that winning yet? But, conservatives had a different take. Sure, some of them saw the AHCA’s demise as a Trump failure but many also saw it as an opportunity. They said: let the AHCA fail and broker a bipartisan deal on Single Payer. My jaw dropped. Single Payer? Surely you jest!
Liberals have long told me and the plucky band of warriors who supported Bernie that Single Payer was a dream, never to be realized. They acted as if ObamaCare, which is a Republican idea with much less Democratic bonafides than the Ted Kennedy mainstay Medicaid for All, was good enough. Without realizing the current popularity of actual universal coverage, these liberals handed over the White House to Trump. And, now Trump may make good on his promise to find a plan that leaves no one uninsured by brokering a deal with Democrats on Single Payer.
Nonsense you say, dejected Hillary Fan? Richard Spencer- most widely known as the Nazi who was punched in the face at Trump’s inauguration- started calling for Single Payer on Twitter immediately after Trump made health care legislation the priority. He went on to write on AltRight.com that “The U.S. is one of the only industrialized nations that has never offered a universal healthcare system, despite the fact that the government spends hundreds of billions in the healthcare market every year.” His argument went on to point out that Trump’s base of white, working class voters need and would support universal health care and that anything less would be abandoning his base, leading to a Bernie Sanders presidency in 2020.
In Newsmax, Trump buddy Christopher Ruddy called for universal health care also while the debate over the AHCA was dwindling. Ruddy pointed out that Trump and Obama agree on a basic premise: “that every American should have access to medical care.” Making a point that I have long agreed with, he called ObamaCare an insurance industry boondoggle and said that the AHCA had many of the same flaws. And, in making the point that Trump should “stick to his guns” on universal coverage and abandon the mainstream GOP, he called for Medicaid for All.
F.H. Buckley, a professor at the Scalia Law School, called for Single Payer in the New York Post. He called the defeat of the AHCA “a victory for the Trump agenda, if used wisely as a means of reinventing the Republican Party as a party of working Americans of all races and ethnicities.” In his call for universal health care he also called for splitting the Republican Party, sending the Koch brothers “packing.” He argued that the AHCA would brand the GOP as a heartless party, but Single Payer would be a bipartisan victory that would forge a new party, increasing Trump’s base of support.
Interestingly enough, many Trump voters appear to feel the same way. Vox’s Sarah Cliff and opinion researcher Michael Perry ran a focus group of Trump voters on health care. They were surprised to have Single Payer come up in the discussion, not because they themselves brought it up, but because several of the Trump voters suggested it as the best plan for the US going forward. In fact, half of their focus group participants raised their hand when asked “Who likes Canada’s health insurance system? Who wishes we had something like that?”
Furthermore, Pew recently found in a survey that support for a Single Payer health care system has dramatically increased among middle- and low-income Republicans. 53% of low income and 34% of middle income Republicans say they think the government has a responsibility to ensure health care for all, up from 31% and 14% last year respectively.
If Trump were to adopt Single Payer, he would render the Democratic Party totally irrelevant. We would be seen as the party that could not deliver universal health care, even when we had control of both houses of Congress and the presidency under Obama. When most recently offered the opportunity to support Single Payer during the Sanders campaign, most Democrats turned up their nose. And, now we may be faced with a reality where Trump proposes, passes and signs the bill we have been championing since the mid 40’s. If he is smart, Trump will support Single Payer. He has a chance to remake his party, deliver on a campaign promise and destroy the Democrats. While I do want to see us realize the dream of universal health care, I hope it does not become a reality under these circumstances. Let us pray that Trump is not that smart.