Universal health care – in whatever flavor one envisions – is a popular idea and Democrats had success in 2018 with many congressional candidates who emphasized it. So it's extra puzzling why the national leadership is so timid about embracing it. Everybody understands that it's not something that could be accomplished with a magic wand or without concessions in the legislative process; but the inability / unwillingness to at least declare confidently "This is a goal we have, we want to achieve this" is really telling. Alex Pareene (ex-Wonkette, for those of you into that) has a great take in The New Republic regarding the incomprehensible "let's try to please everyone" position congressional Democrats are trying to stake out on prescription drug prices.
I mean, even Trump gets this. He runs around saying "We need lower drug prices!" He's not doing anything to actually bring that about, and in fact he's done as much to protect the pharmaceutical industry as any president including George W. Bush. But he gets that people want to hear it. He gets that it's an almost embarrassingly easy political point to score. "Let's lower those drug prices!" Nearly everyone who isn't a pharma executive or salesperson can relate! Easily!
Instead – segue! – they're stuck in their inevitable, terminal cycles of technocratic fixes that A) nobody understands and B) are obviously designed to protect drug industry profits because the biggest priority seems to be not upsetting drug companies. And that mindset, the mindset of tweaks and tax credits and complicated, unworkable, Wall Street friendly administrative nightmares, is one the party absolutely needs to get beyond. Samuel Moyn's review of the new book by Cass Sunstein makes this point well. As Mike Konczal notes, "It is dangerous to approach the economy – now, with so much on the line, with the threat of the far right near – as a set of glib information problems, instead of one shot through with instability, massive imbalances of resources, deprivation and pervasive private power."
How they are not campaigning by shouting "The drug industry sucks! Nationalize that fucker!" is beyond me. They're letting Trump – DONALD TRUMP – beat the from the LEFT on this issue. The nature of our policy making process, of course, makes it impossible to guarantee delivery on such a bold promise. But for fuck's sake, will someone at least aim a little higher? Give people something aspirational to think about? A higher ideal that speaks to people in language other than bureaucratic "Well first we'll set up some exchanges" kind?
Of course not. Let's just nominate Joe Biden instead and try to guilt the Democratic base into being excited about it. Worked great in 2016.