Well, I came out of the health care forum on Saturday pretty happy with our slate of candidates. The candidates were all essentially well-prepared, clear and forthcoming with their thoughts on health care. They did not avoid questions, they did not filibuster, they stayed within their times, they were all civil. I thought they all came across well, each in his or her own way. Very cool.
So here’s what I come away with:
- Eldridge has the most aggressively “progressive” position: Single-payer all the way. Dispense with the insurers and the special interests. He comes across as a “fighter” kind of candidate; draws contrasts between himself and the other candidates, notably Tsongas; is repetitive for effect; throws out the most red meat for a prog crowd; and consequently gets the most applause. It is a very strong and clear strategy, but it remains to be seen if it translates to a wider constituency.
I’m skeptical of single-payer’s prospects in Congress, and I’m unclear how he would expand support for single-payer in Congress beyond its 70 sponsors. But there’s something to be said for providing ballast on the left end of the discussion. But could Eldridge vote for a less comprehensive restructuring of our health care system — an Edwards plan, for instance? Does he work well with others? Ted Kennedy is a great example of a legislator who is able to both stand on principle and cut the deal — can Eldridge do that? (Anyone out there know from his work in the legislature, for instance?)
- Finegold speaks well; he’s clearly a bright and thoughtful guy. His big idea is Health Markets, creating a government health care product in competition with the private sector. That’s a fine idea, but it’s not universal health care. He’s definitely more of an incrementalist than most of the other candidates. He’s well-versed, direct and progressive on health-related issues.
- Tsongas is now on the Edwards bandwagon which is structured much like the MA plan. She seems eager to take advantage of the political window of opportunity for health care reform, citing several times the fact that we’ve been waiting for this since President Truman’s first proposal in 1945. For her, right now that’s clearly more important than the details.
In any event, it’s a definite improvement over her previous fumbling on the issue. She’s done her homework. She’s right on related issues like the nursing shortage, needle exchange and medical marijuana.
- Donoghue speaks clearly and passionately, and I felt comfortable that she was a very sane and sensible person. I can identify with her professing of support for single-payer in the abstract, but also with the necessity of getting results — of not missing the window of opportunity to act positively if imperfectly.
Without judging her negatively at all, I wonder if this isn’t an unnecessarily “administrative” attitude: After all, in Congress, you’re only one of 435; you’re not making the decisions yourself, you’re just putting your weight on one end of the scale. Is it better to ask for what you want, and accept something less? Or is it better to ask for the best that you think you might get? I don’t know the answer to that question.
- Miceli was not very much in step with the other candidates — he’s pro-life (but pro-stem-cell); his answers were not as thorough as the other candidates’. But he was dignified and sometimes thoughtful and passionate in his answers — he did not pander, and emerged with dignity intact.