At the National Press Club, On Wednesday, the day after Round 2, Episode 1 of Democrats Debate, Montana governor Steve Bullock remarked
And I listened to that next night. I saw his reelection becoming more likely with each passing month. As someone who comes from a state where a lot of people voted for Donald Trump, someone who knows how hard he is going to be to beat, please permit me take everyone out of the Twitter-verse for at least a minute and bring us back to Earth. Let me put it plainly. We cannot defeat Donald Trump's politics of personal destruction if we practice the politics of self-destruction. The fact is, we are well on our way to losing this election, long before it ever really even started.
He added "extending health insurance to undocumented immigrants is also a surefire loser."
Never mind the irony of someone on Twitter urging his audience to get out of the ''Twitterverse." A more important irony is that as Bullock decries "the politics of self-destruction," he is practicing it himself.
This appears to be a prime theme. In the debate itself, Bullock had contended
Look, I think this is the part of the discussion that shows how often these debates are detached from peoples’ lives. We got 100,000 people showing up at the border right now. If we decriminalize entry, if we give healthcare to everyone, we’ll have multiples of that. Don’t take my word. That was President Obama’s Homeland Security secretary that said that.
(It came from the Obama Administration, thus from on high.)
But of course, Bernie Sanders a moment earlier had not suggested "we give healthcare to everyone." CNN's Dana Bash had asked the Vermont senator" you want to provide undocumented immigrants free healthcare and free college. Why won’t this drive even more people to come to the U.S. illegally?" Sanders, who was otherwise effective in the debate, completely whiffed when he responded
Because we’ll have the strong border protections. But the main point I want to make is that what Trump is doing through his racism and his xenophobia is demonizing a group of people. And as president, I will end that demonization. If a mother and a child walk thousands of miles on a dangerous path, in my view, they are not criminals. They are people fleeing violence.
This was an awful answer. A President Sanders want neither to sign an Executive Order granting free health care to illegal immigrants nor to propose legislation granting free health care to them. Rather, he plans to include immigrants, legal or illegal, in whatever health care program he enacts. That would be, hopefully, his Medicare for All- but might not be.
Alternatively, a health care initiative could exclude persons who are not citizens or legal residents. Care for these uninsured folks would thus fall upon the public; they would become free riders, receiving treatment largely, or fully, for free. That would be worse for both the public and themselves than if they were covered by the same insurance as citizens and legal residents.
This is a presidential campaign, however, and the proper answer to a Bash-like question is "no. They will not get free healthcare" (or free college). Contrary to conservative propaganda, illegal immigrants do not get to vote, and any suggestion they will get something for nothing (as it will be twisted to mean) will merely annoy most other people.
Another way to avoid giving the GOP fodder on health care- or higher education- is to challenge the premise of the question. If Dana Bash or any other interviewer asks a question based on a false premise, the candidate should challenge that- politely (or not) and firmly.
For Bernie Sanders, that would have been to assure the audience that leaving immigrant children to suffer or die would be just as unacceptable to the American people as to himself.
Nor, for that matter, should Steve Bullock (or any Democrat) be given a free pass when he misrepresents his opponents' position. Perhaps then he would understand that if he is exorcised by "the politics of self destruction," he would be better advised to invest in a mirror than in a doomed presidential campaign.