At the beginning of 2007, it seemed likely that the Democratic nominee would run a cautious campaign, without strong, distinctive policy ideas. That, after all, is what John Kerry did in 2004.
If 2008 is different, it will be largely thanks to Mr. Edwards. He made a habit of introducing bold policy proposals — and they were met with such enthusiasm among Democrats that his rivals were more or less forced to follow suit. It’s hard, in particular, to overstate the importance of the Edwards health care plan, introduced in February.
Before the Edwards plan was unveiled, advocates of universal health care had difficulty getting traction, in part because they were divided over how to get there. Some advocated a single-payer system — a k a Medicare for all — but this was dismissed as politically infeasible. Some advocated reform based on private insurers, but single-payer advocates, aware of the vast inefficiency of the private insurance system, recoiled at the prospect.
With no consensus about how to pursue health reform, and vivid memories of the failure of 1993-1994, Democratic politicians avoided the subject, treating universal care as a vague dream for the distant future.
But the Edwards plan squared the circle, giving people the choice of staying with private insurers, while also giving everyone the option of buying into government-offered, Medicare-type plans — a form of public-private competition that Mr. Edwards made clear might lead to a single-payer system over time. And he also broke the taboo against calling for tax increases to pay for reform.
Suddenly, universal health care became a possible dream for the next administration. In the months that followed, the rival campaigns moved to assure the party’s base that it was a dream they shared, by emulating the Edwards plan. And there’s little question that if the next president really does achieve major health reform, it will transform the political landscape.
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Furthermore, to the extent that this remains a campaign of ideas, it remains true that on the key issue of health care, the Clinton plan is more or less identical to the Edwards plan. The Obama plan, which doesn’t actually achieve universal coverage, is considerably weaker.
One thing is clear, however: whichever candidate does get the nomination, his or her chance of victory will rest largely on the ideas Mr. Edwards brought to the campaign.
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If Democrats manage to get the focus on their substantive differences with the Republicans, ... polls on the issues suggest that they’ll have a big advantage. And they’ll have Mr. Edwards to thank.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
The John Edwards Effect on Clinton, Obama and the DNC
According to the NY Times, John Edwards' policies are running for President. Ironically, Universal Health Care may be more his legacy than Obama's or even Clinton's.
As the architect of these policies, Edwards deserves a place to bring them to reality. He has the ability and courage to do this.