After the most liberal state in the country approves a ballot initiative for a single-payer health care system, headlines across the country are comparing it to Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign rhetoric.
“California shows near-guaranteed path to single-payer,” blared The New York Times. The Los Angeles Times declared, “California gets on course to national single-payer health system.” CNN used the opportunity to predict a 2020 surprise that could deliver a “blue wave” to elect a Democratic president.
What we shouldn’t be reading into is the mere fact that California is moving to take up more significant social issues. After all, the Affordable Care Act was launched in the state.
The reason the anti-single-payer side is so upset is that with one 2016 tweet, President Trump tore up the Republican Party’s entire framework of attack against a bill that had garnered the support of every Democratic vote.
The original 2017 California initiative, which polls suggest has the best chance of passing, would have required a 13-member Senate and Assembly. They would have been chosen by voters as independent non-partisan election commissions. The Senate would have been half Democrats, half Republicans, and the Assembly would have been three members Democrats, and two Republicans.
This added requirement creates a level playing field, making it a non-partisan commission. When the nonpartisan Senate and Assembly are controlled by Democrats, that means the legislature does nothing to act.
This approach — to bring all members of the legislature into one building — actually creates greater transparency and accountability. For decades, California’s system has been nearly undemocratic because the public doesn’t see all members at the same time.
That’s why Republicans, who enjoy big majorities in every legislative chamber, haven’t even had a ballot initiative challenge an existing mandate to legalize medical marijuana.
Other measures this year that have taken on Trump include a law to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation, and the NRA’s bailout on gun violence research. There is a general anxiety among many in the GOP that voters can decide who they want to govern them.
Yet there’s an additional point that needs to be borne in mind: Trump is unpopular in California, and the Democratic presidential nominee last won in the state in 1992.