It is ridiculous to argue the merits of Medicare-for-all vs. Medicare-for-all-who-want-it vs. expanding the Affordable Care Act while President Trump is taking a blowtorch to the norms that allow our political system to function and bind our society together. His nasty little “Friday Night Massacre” — vindictively ousting officials who testified at his impeachment hearings — was a mere taste of what we can expect in the coming months. He has gone full thug.
For Democrats, electability is the whole ballgame. Primary voters need to be as cold-eyed as possible in choosing a nominee who can not only beat Trump but also help generate blue-wave turnout that keeps control of the House and takes back the Senate. That’s going to require compromise from someone: flipping Obama-to-Trump voters and stoking flagging Democratic enthusiasm may demand very different approaches and qualities. But whoever that compromise falls on most heavily must be prepared to make it. There is no choice but to take a deep breath and do what needs to be done.
The pro-Trump base is smaller than the anti-Trump base. If voters who believe this president is a dangerous threat to the nation and the world turn out in November, our long national nightmare will be over. But if enough of the majoritarian Resistance stays home — nursing grudges over policy positions that are, at best, aspirational — then Trump wins four more years.
I don’t want that on my conscience under any circumstances. Do you?
Like many who think of themselves as progressive, I believe we should have a truly universal health-care system along the lines of those in other wealthy nations. Expanding Medicare sounds like a promising path. But how, exactly, will that even begin to happen as long as Republicans, under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, still control the Senate?
It won’t. The debate about health care within the Democratic Party, at this point, is purely theoretical. The necessary first step is winning power. Only then does it make sense to dig in and argue about the details.
Inequality is a vital issue because it is so corrosive to American society. It is unacceptable that members of the top 1 percent are doing so well while middle-class incomes stagnate. It is unacceptable that a college education, for so many young people, means burying oneself in student loan debt that can take decades to dig out from under. Maybe it is time to think about a wealth tax that applies only to those at the very top. Maybe there are less dramatic adjustments to the tax code that can make a real difference.
But there won’t be any attempt to deal with inequality in any meaningful way if Trump remains in power and Republicans keep the Senate. Trump and his Mar-a-Lago cronies will keep the scale tipped decisively in their favor, and no one will be in a position to do anything about it.
Are you appalled by the xenophobia and racism of the Trump administration? I am, too. We should have a debate about whether crossing the border without papers should be considered a crime. We should have a debate about the best path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented migrants already living here. But meanwhile, we’ve seen thousands of children locked up in cages like animals. This kind of sadism won’t end until Trump’s presidency ends.
Do you care about climate change? All the Democratic candidates care, too. Trump calls it a hoax.
The differences among the Democratic candidates pale beside the difference between any of them and Trump. A Bernie Sanders presidency would not be the same as, say, a Mike Bloomberg presidency. But the socialist from Vermont, the billionaire from New York and any of the other Democrats would be incomparably better for the nation than four more years of this Trump madness.
And if you love the GOP, or once did, keep those constraints in mind. The Republican Party has been comprehensively remade in Trump’s image. The only possible way forward is for conservative voters to send their own party down in flames this fall so that honorable people can rebuild it from the ashes. Given the constraints on any Democratic president, the sacrifice might not be as great as you think.
There is one question for Democratic primary voters: Who can win? Nothing else, at this point, really matters.