Will Bernie Sanders Bend on Medicare for All?

Yuval Rosenberg

Would Sen. Bernie Sanders moderate his message on Medicare for All if he secures the Democratic nomination for president?

At The Atlantic, Elaine Godfrey reports that some of Sanders’ supporters and organizers are willing to accept the idea of a public option plan as a compromise on Medicare for All, as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested recently, acknowledging that “a president can’t wave a magic wand and pass any legislation they want”:

“While they really do want the [Medicare-for-All] plan to pass, these supporters—grassroots leaders across the country who I talked to over the last week—speak with more skepticism about its chances, often more so than the candidate himself. They said they are clear-eyed about how difficult it will be to achieve such gargantuan reform. And they would be pleased, if not completely satisfied, with passing a public option as a compromise.”

That compromise could wind up resembling current proposals from other Democratic presidential candidates, some of whom have criticized the Sanders plan as unrealistic.

Sanders publicly disagreed with Ocasio-Cortez, saying that his plan was “already a compromise” because it involves a four-year transition period. Sanders’ backers also emphasize that his plan represents the strongest starting point for negotiations on health care reform and criticize rivals who they say hamstring themselves by adopting a compromise position right from the outset.

Still, Godfrey’s reporting suggests that many Sanders supporters realize that Medicare for All faces legislative and political hurdles that might be insurmountable, at least in the immediate future. But, Godfrey notes, those challenges might also turn into a selling point for Sanders — that we might be “getting an early glimpse of the argument he will make to reel in hesitant Democrats in a general election: that a Sanders presidency won’t necessarily mean immediate, revolutionary change.”

The bottom line: That kind of general election messaging would represent a hard pivot from the maximalist position Sanders and many of his supporters have staked out in the primary campaign, and the candidate has shown little inclination to make such pragmatic concessions so far. But Godfrey’s piece suggests that a healthy portion of Sanders’ supporters are taking his vehemence about Medicare for All seriously but not literally.

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