Coming out of the October Democratic debate, Senator Elizabeth Warren was looking like the new Democratic frontrunner. Virtually every candidate on stage, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg, took a shot at her. And while many of her defenses felt rehearsed, she emerged as the candidate everyone was talking about. However, after months of climbing in the polls as the new progressive candidate touting “big, bold ideas," Warren’s biggest and boldest idea, Medicare for All, may be the beginning of her downfall.
For months, Warren has been avoiding the simple yes or no question of whether she would raise middle-class taxes, repeatedly responding with the same line: “Costs will go up for the wealthy and big corporations, and for middle-class families, costs will go down.” On Friday November 1, Warren finally released her Medicare for All plan, which finally answered that question with a resounding “no," claiming it would provide universal healthcare medicare-for-all without any tax increases on the middle-class.
After reading the plan, however, it seems that everyone, left, right and center, is questioning the reality behind it. Not only has the plan received criticism from her primary opponents, with former Vice President Biden notably calling it “mathematical gymnastics," but other Democrats are worried about how it will affect the image of the party. John McDonough, an architect of Obama’s health care law, has said, “she has successfully put herself out on a ledge. And I’m not sure how she gets back in the window.” Even Saturday Night Live, which has been on the Warren bandwagon since their first 2020 sketch, mocked Warren for the estimated cost of the plan. In response to a question about the cost of her plan, Kate McKinnon’s Warren stated, “When the numbers are this big, they’re just pretend.”
At best, her plan is grossly optimistic, assuming billionaires have endless amounts of wealth the rest of us can take from indefinitely without any negative consequences to investments, wages, jobs or the general economy. At worst, Warren is lying to voters about the plan, avoiding
politically inconvenient discussions surrounding the massive costs consumers would bear outside of taxes in the form of salary cuts and job losses in the medical industry.
According to The Wall Street Journal, estimates predict that two million health insurance workers would lose their jobs as a result of the plan. In response to such concerns, Warren suggested workers will simply move to life or car insurance, an incredibly weak response for a candidate that claims the status of frontrunner. Even if she were to win the presidency, the probability she can get even moderate Democrats on board with such radical tax legislation is extraordinarily low. As Megan McArdle from The Washington Post said in response to the plan, “the best you can say for all of this is that none of it will happen.”
To counter the vast amount of criticism her plan has received, Warren has attempted to flip the script on her opponents by suggesting that they are defending billionaires, insurance companies and big corporations, embracing any pushback to her plan from prominent billionaires and CEO’s as proof of her campaign’s noble struggle. While this has been effective for building her own brand, it may be turning off Wall Street donors that typically donate to Democrats in both Presidential and congressional campaigns.
Despite this onslaught of criticism, Warren remains a top tier candidate, albeit a weakened one. Her polling numbers have finally peaked below Biden nationally, and betting odds show a sharp decline for her in the past month and further criticism of her plan is sure to come in next week's November Democratic debate. While some view Medicare for All as a small bump in her path to winning the nomination, the overwhelming criticism of her plan combined with her refusal to adequately address concerns from even fellow party members may very well mean the decline of her campaign.