Personal: Powerful Biden Healthcare Ad Stakes Out Fierce, Moral Defense of Obamacare, Robs Single-Payer Diehards of High Horse
It has to be said.
There have been two groups of people interested in doing away with the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s crowning domestic policy achievement that protects the health care of 100 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, massively expands public responsibility in health care through subsidies and the greatest expansion of the public health care safety net (aka Medicaid) since the inception of Medicare, and insures - even through Republican attacks and obstructionism - over 20 million Americans who lacked coverage prior.
The first group is obvious: the Republican party and its president, Donald Trump, has been trying to dismantle it from day one. They have been so against it that they have argued both that Obamacare is unconstitutional because it had an individual mandate, and also that Obamacare is unconstitutional because it no longer had an enforceable mandate. Then came 2018, and 40 Republican members of the House lost their jobs for opposing Obamacare.
The second group that opposes the Affordable Care Act is much closer to home: Leftist ideologues who argue that Obamacare perpetuates a health care system for profit and that the entire system should be wholesale dismantled in favor of a single-payer system that gets less popular the more details people learn about it. Bernie Sanders has been such a plan’s top cheerleader since his 2016 campaign, and he remains its chief spokesperson. Some other candidates who had originally signed onto Sanders’s plan, though, have since backed off and created plans with much more gradual, less disruptive approaches.
The Bernie Left matches the Trump Right in terms of political tactics of bullying, vilifying, and plain calling one a bad person if one dares disagree with them. Bernie makes the argument himself all the time that those in favor of strengthening Obamacare are either naive pawns for health insurance companies and big pharma, or worse, in the pockets of the industry themselves. Never mind that their own single-payer plan will perpetuate a private health care delivery system - including private pharmaceutical companies and private doctors, hospitals, and clinics - if you are not on the Bernie train to single-payer pipedreamland, you are a corporatist!
For all of their substantive weaknesses and political infeasibility, though, the crusaders of single-payer have been pretty effective at painting Democrats who don’t support them as evil incarnates who just don’t care about people with health care needs and worse, handmaidens of the “murder by spreadsheets” industry. Thus far, the arguments against government-payer-now have been cerebral, practical, and to a good extent, defensive.
Joe Biden just upended that dynamic.
Biden’s new ad, titled ‘Personal’, is a gut-wrenching, heartfelt, curated masterpiece that dispenses with the dry and practical arguments for defending and expanding Obamacare and makes a deeply moral case for it. Watch:
The ad focuses on Biden’s personal tragedies and connects them to his commitment to health care for all. As a 30-year-old, Joseph R. Biden was sworn in as a United States Senator next to a hospital bed where his two young children laid recovering from a fatal car accident that took the lives of Joe Biden’s daughter and wife. Amid this unfathomable tragedy, Biden says, it would be more unfathomable yet if the two boys laid on that hospital bed could not get the care they needed.
40 years later, Biden continues, tragedy struck again in the form of cancer to one of those boys, Beau Biden. Joe again faced the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child - a child who once returned from the mouth of death - but what you could hear in his voice is his gratitude he did not have to face Beau not having health care during his last days.
And so, Biden stressed, “Health care is personal to me. Obamacare is personal to me. When I see the president try to tear it down, and others propose to replace it and start over, that’s personal to me, too.”
When you are done wiping your tears and the hairs that stood up on the back of your neck have laid back down, think about what Biden just did with the ad: he not only advocated for defending the Affordable Care Act against Trump, but he took away the most potent weapon single-payer-or-bust bullies have against pragmatists: the idea that we, pragmatists who believe the best way to help people immediately is to build on the gift of transformation of health care by the previous Democratic president, are either shills or dopes who just don’t care.
No one in the current Democratic field - indeed I cannot recall anyone who has ever sought the office of president in recent memory - has faced as much personal tragedy as Joe Biden has. We can talk about policies and numbers and profits till we are blue in the face, but at the very core of it, health care is and always will be personal. There can be no doubt that it was unsparingly painful for Joe Biden to reach down and bring his personal tragedies to surface to talk about health care, but only he could do it. He alone can tell that story. In this field, he alone could establish the moral high ground, and not simply political realities, of the future of health care. No amount of podium pounding, finger-pointing, or loud screaming can override Biden’s deeply personal tragedies and his deep personal connection to health reform. The idea that Biden and those who think like him on this issue lack moral fortitude was always a lie, but now it’s laughable.
The tables are now turned. With a single ad, Biden has challenged the likes of Sanders to show the kind of personal moral stake in health care that he has. He has infused moral urgency into the health care debate. And no one on the ideologue side can compete with it, predominantly because ideological resistance to compromise is often the result of never having to face reality.
Joe Biden is serious. This is personal. And he’s going to leave it all on the field, win or lose.
You have to admire that courage. And you have to salute the man.
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