I’ve been hearing a lot about single-payer healthcare and how popular it is with conservatives. It all started when the Republicans got to work trying to destroy Obamacare. The most recent showed up in Sarah Kliff’s article, I Ran a Focus Group With Trump Voters. Half Said They Support Single-Payer. So liberals want single-payer. And half of conservatives want single-payer. Why don’t we have single-payer?!
I’m so sick of this because it means absolutely nothing. Think about Obamacare itself. Recently, it’s become much more popular. According to Gallup, 55 percent of Americans are now in favor of it. Just last November (you know: when we had the election that made reality television star and racist authoritarian Donald J Trump our president), only 42 percent of Americans were in favor of Obamacare. I suspect that Obamacare has more or less stabilized and that people will generally be in favor of it in the future.
The Insanity of Obamacare Opposition
But for the last seven years, the American people have been very much against it. Of course, if you asked them about the things that were in it, they were for them. If you described Obamacare but didn’t name it, they were in favor of it. But they were against whatever the law named Obamacare was. And it wasn’t just some vague notion. They voted based upon their hatred of the law they hated when you called it Obamacare.
This is politics in the United States. It doesn’t make much sense. So Sarah Kliff can go door-to-door and talk to all 325 million Americans and find out that they are overwhelmingly in favor of single-payer healthcare. It still means nothing. And the reason is because it isn’t real. Sure, people have the capability to think about things and come to their own conclusions. But they rarely do. Instead, they find out what the tribe thinks and they go with that.
My Father’s Love of Single-Payer
This is very personal for me. And because it is personal, it is annoying. Not long after Obamacare was passed, my conservative father asked me why they had to pass such a complicated bill. “Why didn’t they just create something like they have in Canada?” Well, this first annoyed me because I knew he was complaining about the bill being complicated because someone (most likely Charles Krauthammer, because my father has a man-crush on him) had been complaining about the “20,000 pages” of the bill. (It wasn’t that long, but that’s a typical number I used to hear.
But even more annoying was that we got Obamacare because if they just created “something like they have in Canada,” people like my father would have been screaming that it was “Socialism!” and that America was on the edge of oblivion. If the Democrats had proposed “Medicare for all,” my father would have asked me why they didn’t do something moderate like Romney did in Massachusetts. Remember: the Heritage Foundation plan, which was the foundation for Obamacare, was created explicitly so that the Republicans could have something to offer as an alternative to the more liberal HillaryCare.
Republican Bait and Switch
The Republican Party is all about the bait and switch. Remember: it is the party of the rich. All it cares about is making the lives of the rich better. Everything else it does is just to get enough votes so that they can pass tax cuts and deregulation. If they could do that by being pro-choice, they would. They really don’t care about anything else. So when it comes to healthcare, all they are interested in is pretending to care. Whatever the Democrats propose will be wrong.
Think about it. If the Republicans had offered Obamacare to Clinton in 1993, he would have taken it. On the other hand, if the Democrats had said, “Hey, we really like your healthcare proposal, let’s pass it,” the Republicans would have suddenly found that it wasn’t good enough. Suddenly there would have been all kinds of problems with it that they hadn’t seen before.
We know this is the case because when the Democrats did just that 15 years later — when the problem of healthcare in America was much worse — the Republicans claimed it was “Socialism! Socialism, I tell you!” And this led to what was actually a very funny period of conservative healthcare wonks like Avik Roy running around the globe looking for a healthcare system that was more conservative than Obamacare. They were always claiming to have found one, but it always turned out that the other country’s system was more liberal. These conservative healthcare “wonks” were really just conservative healthcare propagandists who didn’t understand healthcare. But they did understand their jobs: to be against any healthcare idea that a Democrat ever had.
Conservatives Like Single-Payer — Before the Propaganda Starts
“One of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.” –Ronald Reagan on the passage of Medicare
So sure: when single-payer healthcare was brought up in Kliff’s forcus group, “Half of the hands shot up.” But imagine things after Fox News spent a week shouting, “Socialism! Socialism, I tell you!” Imagine what would happen when hundreds of articles were published about all the people who come to America from Canada because they just can’t get the care they need. This is a favorite conservative talking point — and a myth. After just a week of that, none of those hands would have shot up.
What’s more, most of the people in the focus group would repeat the same talking points that they’d heard on Fox News and hate radio and their friends who listen to these garbage news sources.
Facts Don’t Matter in the US
I understand. In a reasonable nation where the mainstream press called out lies when they heard them instead of just claiming that opinions differ, we would not just live in a country that supporters single-payer healthcare; we would live in a country that had single-payer healthcare. But we don’t live in that country. That’s why we live in a country where the very existence of global warming is a matter for “debate.” The Republicans have played the media perfectly so now any crazy idea a Republican has must be treated with respect.
Eventually, I think we will get single-payer healthcare. It will probably happen gradually as the age requirement for Medicare is slowly lowered. This will happen because we have no choice. But it is pure fantasy that if we put single-payer healthcare up for a vote that it would win by a huge margin. The truth is that after all the conservative (And insurance industry!) propaganda, I’m not even sure it would pass at all. But I am sure that if it passed, it would pass by a small amount.
Authoritarians Do as They Are Told
To a large extent, people are Republicans because they are authoritarians. And that means that they follow directions. Roughly half of the people in the Republican Party really didn’t like Donald Trump on 8 November 2016. But they voted for him anyway — because he was the Republican candidate. And if single-payer came up for a vote, Republicans would vote against it because the party was against it.
So let’s not all of us liberals get lost in fantasy land where conservatives are in favor of single-payer healthcare. The people in Sarah Kliff’s focus group hadn’t been fed the propaganda that they will be fed (in abundance) if single-payer ever becomes a real possibility. If we’re going to get Medicare-for-all, it’s going to be a tough fight. It’s a worthwhile fight. And it’s a fight we can win. But it won’t be easy. The Republicans are not on our side. And if you think their freak-out over Obamacare was ridiculous, just wait until they get started on single-payer.
Republicans Will React as They Have Before
Remember that the following was said by a man who would today be considered a squish in the GOP:
If you don’t [write letters to Congress], this program [Medicare] I promise you, will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country until one day as Normal Thomas said we will wake to find that we have socialism, and if you don’t do this and I don’t do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.
How many hands will Sarah Kliff get after the same thing is said about single-payer healthcare? Not only will there be none, even asking the question might start a riot.