When he ran for president last year, Bernie Sanders picked up basically zero support from the Democratic establishment. Only one fellow Senator endorsed him, and even his fellow Senator from Vermont endorsed Hillary Clinton.
The Bernie Sanders single-payer health care plan, released on Wednesday, is a totally different story. First, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) announced her plans to co-sponsor it; then Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined in. Then Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) joined in. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) will reportedly co-sponsor it as well, and Pat Leahy (D-VT), who bucked his colleague Sanders in last year’s primary, is reportedly a supporter too.
Warren, Sanders, Harris, Booker, and Gillibrand are arguably the most famous and most-admired Democratic senators in the country among the party’s base; the betting marketsgive a 63 percent chance that one of them will be the 2020 nominee for president.
The rest of the party is getting on board with single-payer — or “Medicare for all,” where the federal government would provide health insurance for every American financed through taxes — as well. 117 House Democrats (over 60 percent of the caucus) have co-sponsored HR 676, the Expanded & Improved Medicare For All Act offered every Congress by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).
This is what an emerging party consensus looks like. Over time, some issues become so widely accepted within a party as to be a de facto requirement for anyone aspiring to lead it. No Democrat would run for president, or even for House or Senate minority leader, without supporting the DREAM Act. No Republican would try for a leadership position without supporting repeal of the estate tax.
And the way things are going, soon no Democratic leader will be able to oppose single-payer.