Clinton pollster: It's the health care, stupid

Detroit.
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Stanley Greenberg is a Democratic Party strategist and former pollster to Bill Clinton. For many years he has conducted deep investigations into voter attitudes using both polls and focus groups. As described in an article for The American Prospect, recently he looked into the attitudes of working-class Americans about health care and the coronavirus pandemic, and found a desperate desire for someone to just make the broken system work.

Part of Trump's 2016 margin of victory among white working-class voters in particular, Greenberg found, was down to how unsatisfactory they found ObamaCare. A "big part of why they voted for Donald Trump in 2016," he writes, was "so he could end Obamacare and its costly mandate, and deliver affordable health insurance for all." But when Trump failed to do that, many turned against his party. He won white working-class voters by huge margins in 2016, but their eroding support helped Republicans lose badly in the 2018 midterms — a trend that has only continued.

For working-class Americans of all races, our health-care system is a dangerous, expensive nightmare, which has only gotten worse thanks to the pandemic. In his focus groups, "I have never seen such a poignant discussion of the health and disability problems facing families and their children, the risks they faced at work, and the prospect of even higher health care and prescription drug costs," Greenberg writes. "Three-quarters of these voters supported Trump in 2016, but less than half planned to vote for him now."

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However, working-class voters are not excited about the prospect of a Biden presidency. To them, he "seemed old and not very strong, but most importantly offered the prospect of only minor changes to the health-care system and seemed unlikely to challenge the power of the top 1 percent," writes Greenberg. Whether Biden can actually deliver on his promise to deliver decent health care may determine whether he is re-elected in 2024, or if desperate Americans take another reckless gamble on someone else making big promises.

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Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper is a national correspondent at TheWeek.com. His work has appeared in the Washington Monthly, The New Republic, and the Washington Post.