To state the obvious: Partisan video clips are not designed to make the other party look good. There’s an art to these things. You compile the worst moments by the other team, or by an opponent, and try to make them go viral.
But a strange, flailing campaign by the Republican National Committee to demand a Democratic fix for the Affordable Care Act goes unusually far in misrepresenting what the opposition party is doing or saying. The RNC’s push began on Wednesday with a series of tweets at Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, demanding they put up plans of their own. Clinton responded, predictably, by linking to the ACA plan she ran on in 2016, which included fully funding insurance subsidies and letting younger people buy into Medicare.
Unbowed, the RNC released a compilation of Democrats being asked by talking heads why they would not work with Republicans to fix the ACA. Most analysis of the video has been that it’s simply bizarre. As Republicans know, the opposition party does not need to run on its own detailed health plan to win elections.
But the video makes it look like Democrats are not just evasive, but stumped when asked what they’d be willing to change to fix the ACA. That’s not what’s been happening. Here are the three main clips, with the answers that were sliced out of the video printed in bold. With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.):
NBC News: Would it be smart for Democrats to offer their own alternatives, their own fixes for Obamacare now, and try to bring Republicans on board?
SANDERS: Well, that’s exactly … that’s a very good point. And that is some of the ideas that we have been talking about. For example, I, personally, speaking only for myself, think that for a start, while we move to pass a Medicare-for-all single-payer program; short term, we should lower the age of Medicare down from 65 to 55. Secondly, I think we need a public option. That means in every state in the country, if you don’t like what the private insurance companies are offering, then you have a public option with decent benefits. Thirdly, we’ve got to deal with the cost of prescription drugs in this country.
With Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) — less substance, possibly because the question was about President Trump’s complaint that Democrats were not working with Republicans:
CNN: Do you share part of the burden for a failure to improve Obamacare?
WARNER: I’m viewed as one of the most bipartisan guys in the United States Senate. Every bill I work on, I’ve got a Republican partner. There has been no outreach by the Republicans to the Democrats. They decided they’re using this sort of strange process called reconciliation that allows them to pass a bill with 51 votes, not the normal 60. Unfortunately, the bill that’s come out of that has been pretty godawful.
With Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.):
CNN: Why aren’t you working to fix this, rather than just saying no? What do you say to them?
SPEIER: What I would say to them is: They’re absolutely right. There are a lot of amendments we have to make to Obamacare, just like there were a lot of amendments that were made to Medicare after it became law in this country. We have to fix the cost elements in the Affordable Care Act. We have to have more cost containment. I am with them in wanting to do that.
Left out of the video is that most Democrats want to respond to the immediate threat to the ACA, as cited by panicky insurers, by fully funding the taxpayer subsidies that make plans on state exchanges more affordable. And let’s be fair: left out of seven years of Democratic attacks on the GOP was that Republicans did have health-care bills of their own, theoretically ready to go as soon as the ACA was repealed. (The last six months have revealed that they were less ready than advertised.)
But sometimes, these attempts by one party to shape a narrative are so dishonest than you wonder what the point was. Here, it seems that Republicans are trying to bait Democrats into endorsing a single-payer health care bill — as Sanders plans to do when the AHCA/BCRA debate is over. For weeks, the White House has argued that the coming health-care choice is not between the ACA and its repeal, but between the Republican bill and a pricey single-payer plan.
There are two problems with that. One: Obviously, Democrats who get behind a single-payer bill will have answered the “what’s your plan” question. And two, to the great delight of Democrats, the Republicans’ health-care bills are far less popular than the concept of single-payer “Medicare for all.”