Single Payer, Multiple Problems.

Gillibrand. Booker. Harris. Warren. Sanders. What do those names have in common?

Well, two things actually.  First, they are all of the Democratic senators with presidential aspirations. Second, they are all cosponsors of a recently proposed bill to create Medicare for all single-payer healthcare.

That list alone should tell you about the realistic possibilities of this proposal. If there were a bill on the other side of the aisle on a Republican pet issue sponsored by Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Graham, and Cotton, do you think Democrats would be willing to work with them to pass it?

The Sander’s bill operates under the assumption that healthcare is a right not a privilege, which is the absolute correct opinion – in my opinion.  Because this bill views it as a right, it eliminates the for profit insurance industry in favor of a government system that sets premiums based on health care costs, not health care costs, + overhead + profit + risk + shareholder concerns.  People wouldn’t have to worry about doctors being in network or preexisting conditions or anything. You get sick, you get taken care of.

Sounds wonderful, right?  But the bill has no chance of passing, so why is Sanders forcing the issue right now?

The Democrats just fought a seven year battle over the Affordable Care Act. When it passed in 2010, it was the biggest shake-up of the American healthcare system since the 1960’s and the politics of it cost Democrats the House in the following election.  They then spent the next six years listening to Republicans promise to repeal and replace it if they were to gain power.

Then Republicans caught the car.

With both houses of Congress and the White House under the Republican flag, push came to shove and the Republicans choked.  After promising their ideal version of healthcare to the American people for the better part of a decade, the Republicans couldn’t agree as a caucus on the path forward and had to throw in the towel and let the ACA stand.

While it is too early to judge if this will cost them House seats – remember, nothing matters anymore – it is hugely embarrassing and an enormous hit to their credibility.

So why then, in the minority, are the Democrats setting foot down the same path?  They just narrowly defended the ACA and by proposing a new bill are not only moving the goal posts, but conceding that the ACA isn’t the healthcare system they’d prefer.

I know that some out there – hi @PodSaveAmerica – would argue that even if the bill doesn’t pass that providing healthcare for all should be the Democratic position and this bill should be the conversation starter moving forward.

No, wrong, false, dumb.

By introducing this bill in this political climate, it is automatically polarized to the extreme. Not only is the idea toxic to Republicans, but Sanders is forcing Democratic senators to publicly comment and stake out a position on something that is divisive and  unrealistic.

In an effort to take back the Senate – and maybe the House? – why are you forcing Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitkamp to talk about single payer when their constituencies barely even tolerate their support of the ACA?

I don’t think that the two caucuses need to operate as cohesive blocs at all times or that every vote needs to be a party line decision, but in today’s nationalized political environment elected officials live and die as a team much more than they used to.

If he were a true team player, Sanders would have never introduced this into the conversation under these circumstances.  Then again, he’s only ever paid attention to a constituency of one.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: Getty Images
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The Showdown at Amateur Alley

There is a book that Donald Trump has not read. Yes, I know that could be literally any book, but the one I have in mind is called The Showdown at Gucci Gulch.  It is the riveting story of how the last major tax reform was passed in 1986.

The 30 second summary is this: House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski, Senators Bill Bradley and Bob Packwood, White House Chief of Staff / Treasury Secretary James Baker worked together for years hammering out every detail of every aspect of tax reform. They debated how and if to keep it revenue neutral, how to simplify it, and how to spread the benefits.

By contrast, the Trump Administration talks about overhauling major aspects of the American economy like they are launching a menu item at McDonalds. “Healthcare reform will happen his week.” “Tax reform will be released on Wednesday.”

That is not how this works. That is not how any of this works.

I almost forgive Trump for this naiveté.  He is new to governing, has surrounded himself with no one of any expertise, and is generally not very bright. But Paul Ryan on the other hand – who used to hold the same title as Rep. Rostenkowski – should know better.

Well, he should know better, but as we saw with how he handled Health Care Crash and Burn Episode 1, he is a pretty shitty Speaker.

He not only crafted a bill that couldn’t crack 20% approval, but secured no outside support, made no efforts to secure votes, and gave the world’s worst PowerPoint infomercial on national television.  He had 7 years (that is over 2500 days for those of you keeping track) to craft a replacement to that evil, sinister, job killing Obamacare and instead he basically put the letters “H.R.” in front of a turd and gave it to the House clerk.

Then as if he didn’t learn his lesson, he was back at it this week saying that the GOP has spent a whole four weeks writing an even worse version of their original dumpster fire. Once again, every major national health organization is opposed, no senators have been briefed, and the president is unable to articulate any provisions beyond “it’s very good and very well liked.”

While all of this is going on, Ryan somehow thought it was also a good idea to allow the White House to release an outline of a major tax reform proposal that differs in key ways from the plan Ryan has been salivating over for his entire life. Not to mention how it will make Republicans want to hide those debt clocks they were so fond of under Obama.

Despite being billed as the most powerful city on earth, Washington actually has very little bandwidth for more than one major undertaking at any given time.  Major legislation takes up a ton of energy. The research, the hearings, the lobbying efforts, the scoring and analysis. It is a dance that has all the kinetic energy of an anthill and the organized chaos of a kayak race in a hurricane.

When the Republicans secured both houses of Congress and the White House, most Democrats began digging graves for all their priorities. The rich were about to get tax cuts, the ACA was on its way to the gallows, and social progress was shifting out of drive.  Thankfully, Republicans have chose to govern like a puppy in a dog park that doesn’t know which tennis ball to chase.  So for now, it looks like most liberal accomplishments are safer than we thought.

Back in 1986, Republicans were able to secure major victories like lower top rates in the final tax package despite Democratic control of the House.  They did this through painstaking negotiating, intense cooperation between the Treasury and Congressional leaders, and careful consideration of major stakeholders concerns.

What they didn’t do was announce that it would happen “on Wednesday.”

 

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Picture credit: Associated Press

Sing it, Mr. President.

Every president has their moment.  For John F. Kennedy it came early, on the steps of the Capitol delivering his inaugural address. For George W. Bush it came through tragedy, finding him atop a smoldering pile of twisted steel in New York City with a bullhorn in his hands.

For Barack Obama, that moment found him in an arena in Charleston, South Carolina, surrounded by a solemn black clergy draped in purple robes when he paused, and we heard it:

“A-a-a-ma-a-a-zing-g-g grace-e-e….”

A preacher behind the president stood up so quickly you’d think he had sat on a tack. A voice from off camera shouted “Sing it, my president!” And this young man a thousand miles away felt a heat wave hit his cheeks as condensation slowly released itself from his eyes. 

As he’ll tell you himself, Barack Obama gave far too many national addresses following mass shootings to the point that he admitted he had run out of ways to describe tragedy.  So in that respect, another eulogy was nothing new. We had even seen the president become emotional before, when tears raced down his cheeks while he read the names of slain six year-olds after Newtown.

But there was something different about this day. Here was our nation’s first black president standing among a black congregation, addressing an audience of thousands of black mourners coping with a crime perpetrated by a young white man who told police he committed the act with malice and hate in the muscle where his heart should have been for those born of a different skin color.

This was a moment only Barack Obama could have embraced.

He spoke with a steady, deliberate conviction, reaching deep to bare his soul to the country as a man of god and thus delivering to us a brother, not a president. His freight train like momentum propelled him to reach poignant peaks and touch stoic valleys. His poise, posture, and buttery baritone demonstrated to all that never in a million years would hate triumph of the power of love, faith, and family.

As a white male born in the shadow of the nations capital, I won’t ever be able to understand what President Obama was feeling that morning as looked himself in the mirror while perfecting the dimple in his soft blue tie.  But each time I have watched that speech – a number I won’t reveal – I have felt my eyes well-up, my throat tighten, and my head slowly bob in approval.

President Obama knows the power of his words and how to harness the energy of his audience. When he leaves the teleprompter behind and starts hitting each line with the cadence of a drumline and John Williams-esque crescendo it’s impossible to look away. During the campaign I so often found myself glued to the screen as he giddily chided Donald Trump that my coworkers came to saying I’d “gone to church” when they’d notice a prolonged pause in the clicking from my keyboard.

Like a Marvel character who wakes up to find they have super-strength, Barack Obama has used his powers for good.

Symbols and moments matter.  It is why we fly flags at half-staff or why police wear a badge and not jeans. No flag will ever bring back a national hero, and no uniform will ever catch a robber, but they serve as public markers for respect, law, and order.  Much in this way, President Obama’s forty minute confessional that fateful day in Charleston served as an instrument of healing.  

Just imagine for a second the aftermath of Charleston without President Obama.

Imagine another mass shooting gone unanswered, but this time with the spectre of our nation’s dark racial history looming large.  Imagine another terse eulogy, one that didn’t end in the most powerful man in the nation opening himself up to mockery by singing off key on national television. Imagine another cookie-cutter press release mourning the loss of “fill in the blank” souls, instead of the symbol of freedom discussing the history of the oppressed.

If you think history would have arced the same, tell that to the audience members whose cheeks could have ended a drought that day, or to the preacher who, sitting with his eyes closed, repeated “preach it, my president” like a metronome throughout the address.

Living across a vast and diverse land we often don’t have the ability to meet our fellow citizen, to worship with them, to laugh or cry with them, or to share with them our inner most fears and dreams. Instead it is moments like this, where sitting at home or at the office we can each identify with the feelings of the only man in our country who speaks from behind that great seal.

That day, standing among mourning members of a shaken community, the president reminded us of the type of man he is.  He chose forgiveness and fortitude over vengeance and vitriol. He showed us the power of humility and grace.

He showed us why we’re going to miss him.

Thanks, Obama.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Picture credit: AP

Washington Ain’t Local to Nowhere.

A wise man once said “All Tweets leave from D.C.” Or maybe it was “All roads lead to Rome?” Something like that, anyway.  

In an age where rural America is revolting against the established order, the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Senate hopefuls everywhere have continued to craft their messages in glass walled conference rooms in the shadow of the Capitol while the pulse of the people beats in diners and dive bars in towns you’ve never heard of.

Washington D.C. is not like the rest of the country. Like many other major cities, it exists on an island of blue among a sea of red.  But in addition to being relatively liberal, it is also an intellectual capital for members of both parties.

All of the law firms, consulting firms, policy shops, political agencies that occupy the thirteen story buildings across Washington require college degrees and enough internships to ensure you’re broke as a mere conversation starter, so rarely will you find yourself on the Metro next to someone still knocking manure off his Stars and Bars emblazoned boots.

It is why Marco Rubio and John Kasich each took ~35% of the vote to Donald Trump’s 13% in D.C.’s primary.  They were the establishment choices, seen as smart, sensible, and capable of being president. But, it also is emblematic of how far removed D.C. is from the rest of the country considering Rubio and Kasich each only won one other state.

Former Speaker Tip O’Neill is famous for saying that “all politics is local.”  Yet, many national campaigns feature talking points fashioned in broad strokes discussing general platitudes that have been focused grouped by a $500 an hour paid consultant.  Obama is often critiqued as being out of touch because during visits to the Rust Belt he still touts the return of the auto industry and 75 consecutive months of job growth, but fails to realize that none of those metrics matter much when the fridge at home is still empty.

In March, I traveled to Topeka, Kansas, for the Democratic Caucus.  There, I grabbed a clipboard and walked through neighborhoods and apartment complexes, knocking on doors to gauge interest in the political process. The conversations I had there would have never occurred on Connecticut Avenue.

One young man, dressed in an American flag t-shirt and blue jeans, went from polite to vitriolic at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton. “Man, f*ck that bitch. She belongs in jail! Can I vote for handcuffs?” he exclaimed, quickly slamming the door in my face. Keep in mind, this is months before Trump would first declare “lock her up” as a policy position.

Then last week in Bradenton, Florida, a women spent a considerable amount of time expressing dismay at everything Donald Trump has ever done.  When it was implied that meant she would be voting for Clinton she stopped and said “Oh no, I could never do that. She has had people killed and paid off the media to cover it up.”

What.

These anecdotes are exactly why every time a crowd on a D.C. rooftop has predicted a Trump demise he has instead proven resilient. Trump isn’t speaking to avid readers of Roll Call, he is speaking to the person who glances at CNN as he flips between Duck Dynasty and the Steelers game.

Running national campaigns from Washington is how Republicans failed to stop Trump in the first place.  Rubio, Kasich, Cruz, and Bush all ran campaigns with a D.C. mindset. “Focus on policy, decorum, and talking points and everything will turn out okay, right?” Wrong.

Time and time again, polling from red states showed that traditional branding wasn’t working and yet the political class refused to believe it. Conservative lifers like George Will, along with every veteran of the Bush Administration predicted the end of Trump every single time he said something outrageous, not realizing that rebellion was exactly what made him stronger.

Politics may affect everyone, but it isn’t for everyone.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably into politics and will do your homework if you read a headline that says “Hillary Is A Serial Killer.” But there are plenty of people who were raised conservative in parts of the country where they may never travel to D.C. to see the Capitol in person. The prevailing opinion in those communities is that D.C. residents are bringing drugs, bringing crime, they’re rapists crooks and liars and gosh-darnit, Hillary very well may be a serial killer.

This is not to say that future campaigns should stoop down to the lowest denominator, but there does need to be a counterbalance to running a campaign targeted at people who understand how the sausage is made versus people who vote with their gut.

This is what Obama understood and why he was so successful. In 2008, he ran on “hope” which is in no way a policy position. Looking back on his candidacy it is this message that stands out, not his policy positions.  Sure, he mentioned how people need healthcare, but during the campaign that was about the idea of healthcare, not the nuts and bolts of how it gets passed.  Even now Clinton’s campaign keeps saying she has “detailed policy proposals” on her website. People are as likely to click on those as they are to get into a windowless, rusted, Chevy van with a cardboard sign saying “free massages” taped to the door.

Most Americans probably couldn’t come within 50% correctness of detailing the process of how a bill becomes a law and would stare blankly if you told them that most bills that pass the Senate start moving with the “Rule 14 process.”  Detailing a policy is good if you’re pitching yourself to an editorial board or to a union leadership. But when speaking to the average 2016 voter, all they want to know is how their life is going to get better.

This is why Trump still maintains his 40% floor despite being a horrifying mashup of Richard Nixon and Anthony Weiner. Like a talking doll with a pull string, he just continually repeats that he alone can fix anything and everything. Trade? He can fix it. ISIS? Dead. Common Core? Wharton. Nickleback? Banished.

Even though he’s more full of shit than trash can in a dog park, he knows his story and he’s sticking to it.  At some basic level he understands the “all politics is local” mantra and tells people what they want to hear in every situation. He may never be able to deliver, but in the short term it works.

It is still too early to tell if the nationalist pillars of Trumpism will survive this election to permanently soil our politics, but the disgust with insider baseball is likely here to stay (especially during a Clinton presidency).  As such, campaign gurus would be wise to start crafting their message on cocktail napkins in bars in Roanoke, Lawrence, and Evansville instead of on whiteboards in Chicago, Washington, and Boston.

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Photo Credit: Getty Images

A Debate Primer For Your Sanity

I sat down this weekend with the intention of writing about tonight’s debate and what to expect.  But let’s be honest, its simple.  Trump will say whatever comes to his mind, whether right, wrong, fictitious, or absurd and Clinton will be hamstrung to defend herself. Democracy!

Instead I bring you this preview to what will inevitably increase attendance at AA meetings across the country next week.

Early prediction (based on CNN advertising):

  • Trump and Hillary will each arrive in sequined robes. Trump will decline to weigh in and instead declare that “My weight is phenomenal, truly tremendous.”  Gary Johnson will then rush the stage and bite off part of Clinton’s ear.

How Clinton will win: 

  • She must do the oral equivalent of walking across a Vaseline soaked tightrope, in a hurricane, while wearing ice skates, and after taking 10 shots of Trump Vodka.

How Trump will win:

  • He must not vomit, defecate, or die on stage.

What Clinton will wear:

  • Black suit.  Red power tie.  Flag Pin.  Frank Underwood’s cuff-links.

On fact checking:

  • CNN will fact check, but will then allow Ana Navarro and Corey Lewandowski to debate each “fact.”
  • Fox’s fact checking will be done by Rudy Giuliani.
  • MSNBC will stop fact checking after their team resigns due to exhaustion 10 seconds into Trump’s opening statement.

Drink whenever Clinton says: 

  • “We are stronger together.”

Drink whenever Trump says:

  • “I’ll hire the best people to look into that.”

Finish your drink if: 

  • Someone in the audience shouts “RIP HARAMBE!” during a pause in the action.

You know what, just start drinking now.

If you’re seeking accurate information:

  • Skip this debate and wait for the SNL version next weekend.

How we’ll be saved:

  • CNN’s countdown clock will freeze at 0:00:03 and no activity shall ever commence until its CNN countdown clock has hit 0:00:00.

Late prediction:

  • The Commission on Presidential Debates will have a person whose sole job is to cover Lester Holt’s mouth when Trump declares that “Hillary Clinton not only founded ISIL, but she actually piloted all four planes on 9/11.”

 

Follow on Twitter @EighteenthandU

Here Comes Hillary, Champion of Children!

If you had never heard of Hillary Clinton before the start of the Democratic convention, then first of all, you’re probably an alien, and second of all, you’d probably be surprised to learn that everyone else knows her as a Secretary of State, not as a lifelong champion and advocate for children and families.  

The first act of Clinton’s campaign was centered on the thesis that she should be president because she is the single most qualified human on earth for the job. She had served as a senator and a Secretary of State and was successful at both. But last week in Philadelphia, the Clinton campaign began rolling out Hillary Clinton version 2.0, who is a lifelong fighter for women and children and oh, also happened to serve as Secretary of State.

This rebranding was a deliberate choice driven primarily by voting demographics.  The campaign knows that their odds of winning white men are about the same as you finding that m&m you dropped between the driver’s seat and center console of your Honda.  Trump is up roughly thirty points with white men and there is little looking back.  Her negative ratings with them are approaching 70% which believe it or not, is higher than Trump’s unfavorable with women.

The is mostly because the Republicans have successfully defined her time as Secretary of State as a period branded by Benghazi and her use of a private email server.  They have kept Benghazi in the news for nearly 5 years now and spent $7 million on the latest investigation by the House.  Embassies had been attacked before and never produced vitriol like this and even the 9/11 report stopped short of 500 pages. But nevertheless, Republicans wanted Clinton to be the Benghazi candidate.

As a result, the area where she can draw the biggest contrast and make the most gains is with women.  Trump has a long record of offensive statements towards women and has done literally nothing for their benefit his entire life.

Although, knowing Trump he’d probably tell you that he built the best kitchens in his buildings so women should thank him accordingly.

Branding Clinton as a lifelong fighter for women and children may be a strategic choice, but it has-as Henry Kissinger once said-the added advantage of also being true. She has truly made it her life’s work.  She started working on behalf of families after college and continued after she and Bill moved to Arkansas. Most notably as First Lady she worked towards passing comprehensive healthcare reform and eventually helped to ensure the passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Reminding people of this is important because politicians are brands like Coke or Toyota before anything else. They are fighters, advocates, winners, and leaders first and human beings second.

Trump has mastered his brand. He is anti-pc. He is Roundup weed killer mixed with Everclear and if you have too much, you’ll wake up finding out you drunk texted your boss, but you won’t apologize.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is McDonald’s.  She is a juggernaut and known quantity and Benghazi was her “Super Size Me.”  The Democratic Convention last week was the roll out of Clinton as white meat chicken, salads, and apples in Happy Meals.

If the Democratic convention’s rebranding was successful, Clinton will see a sustained rise in her numbers as voters look to connect with a sensitive, empathetic family advocate who is oil to Trump’s water.

After all, General Motors saw their sales turn around partly as a result of their rebranding Buick that saw people no longer viewing Buick as their grandfather’s car, but as a symbol of new, young luxury.  Will Clinton share the same fate?

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The Electorate Is Full of Shit

If the Republican and Democratic conventions have proven anything, it is that Americans are generally full of shit when it comes to their political views.  

Folks will stand passionately by a candidate until the cows come home and yet when the political winds shift, they will suddenly advocate for the totally opposite thing like it’s been the bedrock of their beliefs their entire life.

In Cleveland last week, we watched an entire party commit harakiri by embracing a self-promoting, serial liar with tiny fingers who stands for just about everything the Republican party has traditionally stood against.  

For example, weren’t Republicans the party of family values? The party of church on Sundays and family game nights that don’t end in someone flipping the monopoly board?  I thought so, until they nominated a man who has repeatedly said how much he disdains parenting and is married to his third wife 24 years his junior.  For pete’s sake the only anecdotes his kids could muster about their father’s parenting were about them sitting in his office or visiting construction sites. This is a man who patted his daughter in a way that was barely appropriate for a football field after she introduced him in front of an audience of millions.

And what about Trump’s favorite issue of trade, that wonderful consequence of globalization that Republicans have long championed. Now what if I told you that they just chose a candidate who says that trade deals are “raping America,” has advocated for isolationism, and has said that the TPP would ruin America.  Remember his almost-running-mate Bob Corker? He spent years advocating for the TPP and then almost signed on to a team that made killing it their main priority.

Republicans have also spent years criticizing President Obama for being weak in terms of projecting military power and letting down our allies overseas.  Want to take a gander at the position they now support? If you guessed leaving NATO allies to fend for themselves and withdrawing troops from abroad, you’re a winner!

Yet, conservatives everywhere have put on their red hats and blanketly stated that he’s their guy, that he represents the values they care about and is the right man to represent the United States of America.

Can you really blame the average pickup-driving, rare-burger-eating, Fox News-watching ‘Murican for throwing everything they stand for out the window when they’ve watched their party leaders and talk show hosts do the same?

Last week, Jon Stewart made a glorious reappearance with Stephen Colbert and spent thirteen minutes highlighting all of Sean Hannity’s wild reversals of opinion on the character qualities that he always hated about Obama, but now loves in Trump.  Hannity even went so far as reverse his position on the use of teleprompters. Are teleprompters now a fringe issue in our elections?

Sadly, Republicans aren’t alone in their ability to be full of shit.  Bernie Sanders supporters have been raising hell in Philadelphia this week as they refuse to accept that their revolution has come to an end.  Many have gone on camera to say that they will refuse to vote for Hillary Clinton in the fall, because that makes sense.  

Let’s follow that logic: They support positions that are a “12” on a scale of “1-to-socialist,” so rather than accept an “8,” they want to abstain and tacitly support the guy who is a “-65.”   If they really supported the issues they say they care so passionately about, they would devote all their efforts to electing Clinton, who by the way, supports nearly everything they do.  As Obama said earlier this year, “it’s steak or fish” and these guys claim to be vegan.

The truth is, I don’t think the majority of people are as principled as they claim to be.  Trump’s base of support has grown like the White Walker army in Game of Thrones, killing good Republicans and reincarnating them as Trumpians.  If the conservative electorate really believed in trade, or military alliances, or really… anything, they would never have cast over 13 million votes for him.

Sanders’ supporters are no different. They subscribe to an ideology that anyone with government experience knows is impractical, yet instead of using their momentum to accomplish realistic ends, they plug their ears and stomp around with the rationality of a third grader, all but assuring the impossibility of their stated agenda.

Winston Churchill once said that the greatest argument against democracy was a five minute conversation with the average voter.  I’d venture to bet if he were alive today he’d tell you that conversation would only need to be thirty seconds.

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Photo Credit:  Sean Rayford/Getty Images