You wouldn’t think that government-provided health insurance for illegal immigrants would be controversial — at least, not from the row of hands that were raised at last week’s Democrat debates when the candidates were asked who supported it.
Yet, a poll released Monday by CNN found that nearly 60 percent of all Americans opposed such a plan.
The poll, conducted between June 28 to 30, asked 1,613 respondents a number of questions, among them: “Do you think health insurance coverage provided by the government should or should not be available to undocumented immigrants living in the United States?”
Fifty-nine percent said no, while 38 percent said yes. Three percent were undecided.
Sixty-six percent of Democrats polled were in favor, compared with 31 percent opposed. Perhaps most importantly, 63 percent of independents were opposed, versus 34 percent in favor.
At the debate, however, it looked like 100 percent of Democrats were in favor:
“A lot of you have been talking about government health care plans you proposed in one form or another,” NBC moderator Savannah Guthrie said. “This is a show of hands question and hold them up so people can see. Raise your hand if your government plan would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants.”
All of the candidates raised their hands, eliciting a round of applause from the audience.
When asked why, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg answered, somewhat tautologically, that it was “because our country is healthier when everyone is healthier.”
Buttigieg noted that illegal immigrants in his community paid sales taxes and property taxes, which meant this was “not about a handout.” (Neither of those, it’s worth noting, is likely to directly pay for a government-run health insurance program in any substantial manner.)
“We do ourselves no favors by having 11 million undocumented people in our country be unable to access health care,” he said. “But, of course, the real problem is we shouldn’t have 11 million undocumented people with no pathway to citizenship.”
And then the kicker: “The American people agree on what to do,” Buttigieg said. “This is the crazy thing. If leadership consists of forming a consensus around a divisive issue, this White House has divided us around a consensus issue.”
He was talking about a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. This is broadly true, but one guesses it would likely have to do with the particulars of the plan.
If the particulars of a broader liberalization toward those in this country illegally includes government-run health care for them — which was the question Buttigieg was asked, just in case you forgot by the time he was done — they’re opposed to it.
Perhaps this is why neither he nor Biden really wanted to talk about the specifics of a plan that would include government-provided coverage for illegal immigrants: They know that, even though they’re all for it — and given the electorate in the primaries, they have to be for it.
This isn’t the only issue on which the Democrats skew far to the left of the rest of America, but the unanimity of those on stage, coupled with Mayor Pete’s digressive answer, is one of the best illustrations of why this could be fatal for them in the general election.
Beyond generalities like “our country is healthier when everyone is healthier” (I can just see some low-level speechwriter with the Buttigieg campaign patting themselves on the back as they came up with that one), he argues that illegal immigrants do pay some taxes in the form of various local and state taxes.
This may be entirely true, but are we going to pretend this is going to pay for an expansion of government-subsidized health care? Who do we think is really going to be paying for this? And more importantly, what are they going to think about the party line as opposed by Mayor Pete and Joe Biden?
Don’t expect the Democrats to play this issue up in the general election, at least not with those poll numbers. In fact, if anyone’s going to mention it, it’s going to be the Republicans.
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