The latest Democratic presidential debate opened Tuesday night with a lengthy argument over the variety of health care proposals that have become a sticking point between centrists and progressives.
Sen. Bernie Sanders began what became a series of exchanges among all 10 candidates on stage in Detroit by telling former Rep. John Delaney “you’re wrong” over a previous characterization of his “Medicare for All” proposal. Delaney had referred to the plan as “political suicide.”
Universal health coverage has been a cornerstone of both of Sanders’ presidential campaigns. He noted that countries like Canada have lower health care costs.
Challenged by Rep. Tim Ryan on a point, Sanders retorted, “I wrote the damn bill.”
Montana Gov. Bullock, who was appearing on the debate stage for the first time, introduced himself to America as a person who had governed a state that President Donald Trump won and by arguing that he knew how to connect with those voters. Within minutes, both he and former Rep. John Delaney, of Maryland, argued vigorously against Warren and Sanders’ full-throated support of “Medicare for All.”
“At the end of the day I won’t support any plan that rips away quality health care from individuals,” Bullock said. “This is an example of wish-list economics. It used to be Republicans that wanted to repeal and replace, now many Democrats do, as well.”
Author Marianne Williamson noted that she often agrees with Warren and Sanders on policy issues but not on Medicare for All.
“I’m normally way over there with Bernie and Elizabeth, but on this one. I hear the others,” she said.
Williamson rejected Warren’s argument that Democrats were using Republican talking points to demonize the Medicare for All plan.
“I do have concern that it will be difficult. I have concern that it will make it harder to win, and I have a concern that it will make it harder to govern,” she said.
Tuesday’s debate is taking place in Detroit, the largest city in the battleground state of Michigan. It’s a place Democrats are working hard to flip after losing it to Trump by a narrow margin in 2016 — the first time the state had gone to a Republican since 1988.
That setting provided an opening for some of the lesser-known moderates in the race, some of whom are hanging on by a thread already as they fight to keep their campaigns alive. In the opening stages of the debate, that was obvious in how some candidates attacked the progressive Medicare for All position.
Delaney noted that his father was a union worker for many years to earn his health care, and that he and many other Americans would not want Democrats completely restructuring the system. He charged that Sanders’ “math” was wrong.
President Donald Trump and his Republican allies have cast the Democrats’ reform plans as extreme.