The Corner

Politics & Policy

In Defense of The Old Republican Playbook  

Tom Perez at a Democratic election night rally in Washington, D.C., November 6, 2018. (Al Drago/Reuters)

DNC Chair Tom Perez was on Fox News Sunday over the weekend. Chris Wallace asked him about the Democrats’ veer toward socialism:

WALLACE: Whether it’s the green new deal or Medicare for all or suggestions about very high tax rates on the super wealthy, how do you defend against President Trump’s charge and effort to portray the Democratic Party, your tax and spend policies, as socialist?

PEREZ: This is one of the oldest tricks in the playbook, Chris. You go back 75 years, when Republicans don’t want to discuss the issues that matter to real people, they call it socialism. Social Security, when it was being debated, you had Republicans calling it socialism. The minimum wage in 1938, you had Republicans calling it socialism. Medicare, Ronald Reagan said, and I quote, Medicare will lead to socialized medicine. Medicare will lead to socialism in America. The Affordable Care Act. The Children’s Health Insurance Program. All of those things were socialism, socialism. Why did they do that? Because they’re wrong on the issues. They don’t want to talk about pre-existing conditions. We’re right on that issue. We want to make sure if you’re diabetic you can keep your coverage. They don’t want to. So they change the subject. And that’s what they do . . .

This exchange caused me to yell at my TV. But I left it there. Then, last night on Special Report, Wallace was sitting in for Bret Baier and he brought up this clip and asked the panel about it. No one made what is to me the most obvious rejoinder in the world.

In the past, when Republicans accused Democrats of pursuing socialism, the Democrats denied it!

That’s not what Democrats do anymore. In 2016, when Bernie Sanders was giving Hillary a run for her money talking up socialism, the then head of the DNC, steadfastly refused on multiple occasions to delineate a difference between socialism and the Democrat party. Since then, socialism has become only more fashionable among liberals and Democrats. AOC is a socialist. Various Democrats want socialized medicine. Etc.

So, what the Hell is Perez talking about? He’s condemning Republicans for accusing Democrats of believing something Democrats increasingly confess to believe. How is that “changing the subject”? That is the subject.

Oh and about Reagan’s declaration that Medicare would lead to socialized medicine, I have some quibbles. The speech Perez and so many others refer to was given in 1961. Medicare wasn’t passed until 1965 and didn’t go into effect until 1966 — which is why Reagan didn’t use the word Medicare once. It’s a very small point because what Reagan was describing was the move toward something like Medicare.

But there’s a larger point to be made: He was right! Or, at the very least, he had a point.  Reagan warned that Medicare or something like Medicare will lead to socialized medicine. Today, Sanders, AOC, Gilibrand, et al are all demanding “Medicare for All” which — by their own words — is their own term for socialized medicine. Mocking Reagan for calling Medicare a stepping stone to socialized medicine while calling for socialized medicine under the banner of “Medicare for All” is a very strange rhetorical position.

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