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Biden and Sanders stage negotiations

03 / 15 / 2020

Tonight’s debate may turn out to be more of a live negotiation on national TV – and this is a very positive thing.

Many ardent Trump-opposers have been frustrated by the messiness of the Democratic Primary; we just want to eradicate Trump.

But as I’ve written, this is how it works. And here’s the good news for progressives who want elections to be about the ISSUES and not just personality and likability: The Policy Debate has arrived. And it promises to have teeth.

 The whole “Socialist” label was never the real danger for Democrats in the general election. It’s just a word. The real friction between a Sanders-Trump choice would have been the SPENDING.

 Do not get me wrong – I’m not excusing the massive increase to our national debt that Hustler Don has exerted — without truly helping Americans who need it most.

 But what Senator Sanders has been proposing —  whether you agree or disagree with his policy — is a massive restructuring of our healthcare system that would cost $50-60 trillion over the next decade.

 This would DOUBLE the size of our federal government. To give you some perspective, FDR’s New Deal, the largest non-war spending program of the 20th Century, increased federal expenditures as a share of GDP by 8 percent. The share that Bernie’s plan would cost, even at the lower $50 trillion figure, would be 20 PERCENT.

 Now, if you’re full-force behind Bernie’s plan, as millions of voters are – you say “damn right! Healthcare is a Yuuuman right and every other major industrialized country does a better job than the United States in taking care of their people!”

 True. But the politics of it is not quite that simple. Do you think Barack Obama, Joe Biden and dozens of other major political figures wouldn’t want to snap their fingers and overhaul the healthcare system to provide universal care the next day? Of course they would. And Hillary Clinton wanted to do this in the NINETIES.

 But first you have to persuade enough voters to give you the White House and both chambers of Congress — and even then IT IS HARD.

 Bernie Sanders is a titanic political figure. Anyone who doesn’t get this doesn’t really understand what he’s accomplished. He’s moved a centuries-old legacy political party to bow to his ideas over the last six years. Bernie wasn’t my choice in this primary (I don’t feel passionate about any of them) – but I have enormous respect for both the way he fights for his ideas and for the movement he has built.

 And now Bernie gets to do what he and all of his supporters have earned – apply maximum pressure on the other last candidate standing to adopt as much of his platform as possible. The leverage Bernie holds lies in the millions of Americans who’ve voted, volunteered and given their hearts and souls to his campaign. Not once – but twice.

 Biden knows this. He’s known it all along, and so have the other dozen moderates who made it past September. But now it’s on Joe and his people to negotiate a deal with Bernie. This is not easy stuff, because as the favorite and likely nominee, Biden doesn’t want to alienate the bloc of swing voters (whose value I have questions in a longer analysis) in the handful of states he must steal back from Trump. Most notably, WI, MI & PA, where Hillary lost by a grand total of 77,000 votes.

 Just yesterday, Biden made a real and official gesture toward Bernie’s supporters when he endorsed Elizabeth Warren’s bankruptcy plan that would allow student loan debt to be eliminated in those filings. That’s a double-nod; two birds.

 But healthcare is the biggie, and I have no doubt that Joe and Bernie’s staffs have been feverishly trying to figure out how they can mesh these two candidates’ different ideologies on the subject. Throw in differences on the Green New Deal, immigration and affordable housing, and there’s lots to consider. But that $50-60 trillion on healthcare looms the largest.

 Americans are sequestered in their homes. The final primary debate airs live in just a few hours. Two candidates remain standing — left to figure out how they’re going to arrive at a common place on the issues that will allow one to passionately campaign for the other in their joint pursuit to eliminate Hustler Don.

 People’s lives are affected by whose ideas win at the ballot box. THAT is American politics. And when the real substance of the ideas are being debated and negotiated in a big way — like they are right now — it actually represents the best part of our very flawed system.

 Gentlemen, start your engines. Make your cases. Mesh your platforms — and then get in lockstep.