It turns out that promising voters the world with almost no undesirable tradeoffs is a popular proposition. That may not be a particularly novel discovery, but the Democratic presidential candidates auditioning to be the most progressive aspirant in the race have enjoyed great success exploiting it. The liberal Xanadu exists only so long as Democrats agree to pretend its establishment on Earth is a mere question of collective will, but some of the 2020 field’s candidates aren’t playing that game anymore. We’ve reached a new stage of the race in which the central proposition before voters isn’t predicated just on what’s possible but also what’s practical.
Among the Democratic candidates positioning themselves as the centrists, highlighting the cost of Medicare-for-all has been a staple of their campaign diets. As long as this cohort consisted only of Joe Biden (who remains politically wedded to Obamacare) and a handful of Lilliputians, it could be dismissed as mere political positioning. Now that Sen. Amy Klobuchar and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg—a recent convert to the idea that Medicare-for-all is an unrealistic proposition—have joined Biden on the attack, the notion that a single-payer system is an inevitability under the next Democratic president is under significant strain.