It turns out that everything else isn’t secondary, because whatever else is true of Sanders, he isn’t focused single-mindedly on dumping Trump. From the outset, he has championed a host of proposals, most prominently Medicare-for-all, that would implement his vision of a democratic-socialist America. He assumes that his agenda would be so popular that it would automatically defeat Trump.
This is, at best, questionable. In the Post-ABC News poll, Sanders led all candidates with 32 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independent registered voters, followed by Biden with 16 percent. Biden’s total was down sharply from 32 percent support in January. After Biden, former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg polled 14 percent. Support for other candidates was 12 percent for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), 8 percent for former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and 7 percent for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
By a 58-38 percent margin, likely Democratic voters said they would prefer a candidate who can defeat Trump over someone who agrees with them on substantive issues. A month ago, 38 percent said Biden had the best chance of defeating Trump. Now that’s 19 percent.
Previous polling has shown that many Sanders supporters would not necessarily vote for the Democratic nominee if it isn’t Sanders. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that Sanders wins a large plurality (35 percent) of Democrats who prefer a candidate who shares their views over one who is judged most electable.
Sanders’s agenda would, if implemented, involve a vast increase in the centralization of power in Washington.
His Medicare-for-all proposal would effectively nationalize most of the health-care system that is not already under government control — Medicare (insurance for those 65 and older), Medicaid (a federal-state program providing insurance for the poor) and the Affordable Care Act (insurance subsidies for the near-poor).
In addition to covering the entire population, Sanders’s plan would also expand coverage by including benefits for dental care, eye care and hearing loss. His plan would also dispense with co-payments and deductibles. This would reduce patients’ out-of-pocket expenses.
Just how much all this would cost is a matter of guesswork. Sanders has suggested a wealth tax and possible payroll taxes to finance his program. Eliminating the profits of the private insurance industry would provide another source of funds. Still, these policies might be insufficient. Even after new taxes and savings, Sanders’s plan could add $13 trillion to the deficit over a decade, estimates the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan advocacy group.
There are other important pieces to the Sanders agenda, including “free” college at state schools, guaranteed jobs for able-bodied adults and a pledge that teachers should earn at least $60,000 a year. These proposals, if adopted, would also centralize power in Washington. They, too, would raise government spending.
How do voters react to all this centralized power? Do they agree with Sanders that it lays the foundation for a fairer America by reducing the power of major corporations? Or does the prospect of Sanders’s “socialism” scare people into voting for Trump?