Ambitious Democrats are marching to Bernie Sanders' drum these days: Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker — all Senators seeking the White House in 2020 — have signed onto the socialist senator's plan for socializing health insurance.
"Medicare for All" is Sanders' current euphemism. "Single-payer healthcare" is the standard euphemism. Single-payer, of course, means single-decider, and that decider is Uncle Sam. Sanders, who thinks Americans suffer from excessive choices of deodorant, is fine with centralizing medical decision-making in the hands of bureaucrats.
The Leviathan State is generally in vogue on the activist Left, where efforts are afoot to arm the government with police powers over hate speech and political speech, and their desire use government power to coerce participation in contraception and gay marriage.
The desire for power consolidation in this active progressive base helps explain the rush to single-payer, especially among otherwise corporatist neoliberals like Harris and Booker. But we also suspect that the Left's echo-chamber, and the bubble fortified by a complete dismissal of opposing views, leaves many Democrats with the false belief that socialized health insurance is or could be popular.
Consistently, most Americans say "government is trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses."
It's easy to misread some polls and believe single-payer is popular. Asked if "it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage," a bare majority says yes.
So, 54 percent of Americans think everyone should have healthcare. That doesn't mean most Americans want the government more involved in their healthcare. All told, only about one American in three favors "a single national government" program.
And that's just in the abstract. When things get specific, it will become worse. Republicans could tell the Democrats about this: repealing Obamacare was also very popular in theory, but any specific repeal bill was disastrously unpopular.
This apparent contradiction is the same lesson Democrats learned in 2010 when passing Obamacare helped hand the House to the Republicans: Americans don't want Congress to mess with their health insurance.
About two thirds of Americans are satisfied with the U.S. healthcare system, including two thirds of those on the individual or employer markets. Telling Americans you will replace their plan with one run by an even bigger, less responsive bureaucracy, is not going to go over well.
One Democratic focus group recently found that "Medicare for all … generates suspicion. The challenge is that most voters in focus groups believe it's a pipe dream — they ask who will pay for it and suspect it will lead to a government takeover of health care…"
Still, the idea persists that federal health insurers replacing the market will be greeted as liberators. Democrats showed a similar tone-deafness in 2012, when the Obama campaign rolled out it's infographic illustrating Obamatopia: "The Life of Julia." It showed cradle-to-grave government support, in which Julia never interacted with any entity besides the federal government (even when she decided to have a baby.).
The problem may be that some of the professional government class see government as a sweet loving parent, while most Americans see government as something necessary but unpleasant. Note how many welfare recipients — to the mockery of liberal commentators and snark of mainstream reporters — dislike welfare.
It's not an American trait to warmly regard the federal government as a loving parent.
As Sanders' single-payer bill attracts cosponsors, the port side of the 2020 Democratic primary gets crowded. If they look around, though, Harris, Warren, Booker, and others will realize that most of the country isn't ready to walk this plank with them.