After the defeat of "Hillary Care" in the 1996 election Bill Clinton ran for reelection on an tempered and incremental health care plan plan. In 2000 Al Gore had a tempered and incremental health care plan. In 2004 most of the major Democratic candidates including the eventual nominee, John Kerry, ran on tempered and incremental health care plans.
Such was the state of timidity around health care in the wake of "Hillary Care" that for three election cycles in a row the Democratic nominee did not offer anything approaching universal health care. As Paul Krugman reports in the New York Times this morning at first it looked like Hillary Clinton was set to follow the same timid course as she tried for the nomination this year.
To see how much things have changed, consider Hillary Clinton>’s evolution. Just 15 months ago, The New York Times reported that "her plans to expand coverage are tempered and incremental," and that "she continues to shy from the ultimate challenge: describing what a comprehensive Democratic health care plan would look like."
Indeed, when she was asked how costs might be controlled, she demurred: "It depends on what kind of system you’re devising. And that’s still not at all clear to me, what the body politic will bear."
Then things changed. John Edwards stepped up with a bold and well thought out plan delivered universal health care helped control costs and that was credible politically. He challenged his rivals to do the same. Krugman again:
John Edwards broke the issue of health care reform open in February, when he proposed a smart and serious plan for universal health insurance — and bravely announced his willingness to pay for the plan by letting some of the Bush tax cuts expire. Suddenly, universal health care went from being a distant progressive dream to something you could actually envision happening in the next administration.
Now, thanks to John Edwards leadership, as Krugman notes all three of the leading Democratic candidates have credible universal or near universal health care plans. But the political fight is not over. The Republicans will demagogue to their last breath to scuttle a new social safety net plan that they fear will be too popular for them to dismantle in the future. One part of the political fight is over, the Democrats are engaged, the real battle is still to come:
That’s why the long delay before Senator Clinton announced her health care plan made supporters of universal care, myself included, so nervous — a nervousness that is not completely assuaged by the fact that she finally did deliver. It’s good to know that whoever gets the Democratic nomination will run on a very good health care plan. What remains is the question of whether he or she will have the determination to turn that plan into reality.
Any thoughts as to who that might be?