Sen. Bernie Sanders’ expected introduction of a single-payer healthcare bill this month is worrying many Democrats who are concerned the proposal will divide the party by pitting his liberal base against more moderate Democrats, The Hill reported on Monday.
Although the Vermont senator insists the bill is not a litmus test for Democrats, pundits say that the decision to support his plan or not will be key for the electoral prospects of many in the party for both midterm elections next year and the presidential race in 2020.
Potential 2020 presidential candidate prospect California Sen. Kamala Harris became the first to back Sanders’ bill, saying last week she would co-sponsor it, CNN reported, perhaps signaling increasing Democratic support for such legislation.
However, to illustrate the dilemma for both Democratic leaders and presidential hopefuls, who are walking a fine line between pleasing their liberal supporters without alienating the more conservative voters they will need to win a general election, spokesmen for several other Democrats with possible presidential ambitions did not respond to a request for their stance on the issue, according to the Hill.
This silence even included several senators who have previously supported single-payer plans.
Perhaps most indicative of the sensitivity of the topic, economic issues were the main theme when the Democrats launched their messaging agenda for midterm elections, called the “Better Deal,” but healthcare is not mentioned at all.
Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a long-time single-payer supporter, has apparently recognized the political risks of such a stance and rejected the notion of making the issue a part of the party’s platform, instead focusing on improving Obamacare.
A senior Democratic aide working on a 2018 campaign told Politico that “There’s a concern that [Sanders-allied] people will try to make a stir, [but] you can’t just be a liberal Democrat in a lot of these states and be elected. [So] the question is how we improve the lives of people instead of playing these political games.”
However, Sanders and his liberal supporters reject these arguments, insisting that the Democrats can win only if they state clearly and fight for their liberal ideals and say they will push for candidates to back the plan, the Hill reported.
The Republican are already planning to take advantage of such division within the Democrats and are expected to highlight what they consider the negative aspect of the single-payer legislation as a weapon against them in both the upcoming midterm and presidential elections.