Mark Twain supposedly said, “history doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme.” Yet history, in the Democratic primary between former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Senator Bernie Sanders, appears to be repeating.
Democrats are well known for circular firing squads and eating their own. However, this enthusiasm often abates during general elections against actual ideological opponents.
Former Vice President Al Gore’s savage attacks on former Sen. Bill Bradley in 2000 contrasted with this lackluster general election campaign. In 2000, Sen. Bradley proposed health care legislation which was similar to the overhaul advocated by the Clintons and Vice President Gore in 1994. Still Gore criticized Bradley’s plan for being both too large and too small.
Among Gore’s complaints are these from a 2000 CNN story:
“His plan completely eliminates Medicaid,” Gore said while stumping in New Hampshire over the weekend. “I’m going to defend Medicaid and Medicare. I don’t care what the political party is of somebody that proposes … to eliminate it. You’re going to shred the social safety net,” Gore said.
On another day, Gore insisted Bradley’s plan would cost $1.2 trillion over 10 years, and eat up the budget surplus.
According to Gore, the plan was both too expensive and didn’t cover enough people. One would imagine if Bradley was actually eliminating Medicaid it would save a lot of money. But Gore wasn’t done. He went to say Bradley’s plan would be particularly bad for blacks and Latinos and eliminate coverage for those with H.I.V. and AIDS.
The media never picked up on this hypocrisy and the Bradley campaign failed to effectively combat the attacks. The charges were spurious and outrageous but Gore won the nomination.
Secretary Clinton appears to be making a similar calculation. In one debate she made the suggestion that Sanders health care plan would cost between $18 to $20 trillion dollars — more five times the size of the total federal budget.
On the other hand, Clinton argues it is too small in that it would limit coverage. She claims “His plan would take Medicare and Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act health care insurance and private employer health insurance and he would take that all together and send health insurance to the states, turning over your and my health insurance to governors.”
Daughter Chelsea Clinton claimed, “I worry if we give Republicans (read Governors) permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era, before we had the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”
It is worth noting that the ACA itself actually leaves health care at the whim of Governors and this is the system the Clintons are hell-bent on preserving. The irony is apparently lost on the former Secretary of State. It is not lost on the working poor Floridians who are denied health care by a Governor that chose to reject federal tax dollars under the Affordable Care Act.
Alternatively, Sanders plan is Medicare for all; not Medicare in states where the Governor’s approve.
Former Obama aide, David Axelrod said, “Bernie Sanders is proposing single-payer, universal healthcare. You can hardly say he is trying to take healthcare away from anyone or retreat from Obamacare, he’s trying to exceed it. And so, it’s not really an honest attack.”
USA Today criticized the Clinton argument as, “rank nonsense. A single-payer system, like it does in many other countries, would cover everybody, period. To say otherwise is either willfully misunderstanding how it would work or simple scaremongering.”
Unfortunately, this is the type of cynical campaigning practiced by the Clinton/Gore camp. It was evident in 2000, 2008 and appears to be repeating — or at least rhyming.