Beto O’Rourke finally announced his campaign for President Thursday. And immediately out of the gate, he offered a vague and indecisive answer on Medicare for All, a core position for the 2020 Democratic field.
A majority of Democratic candidates from Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) to venture capitalist Andrew Yang support some variant on the immensely popular Medicare for All proposal. That’s where America is as well, with even a large swath of Republicans supporting the policy. A small few have carved out a right-flank approach to the nomination fight by opposing Medicare for All.
Interestingly, former Representative Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) wasn’t asked if he supported Medicare for All, but how long he thought his administration would take getting it implemented. His response was something of a jumble.
“I think we have to begin with a goal that has to be separate from any labels,” O’Rourke responded. “This has to be something America comes together on. I think you do that by listening to people — by listening to patients and [health] care advocates and communities. And from that, you get to the solutions.”
He did call for some means of a Medicare buy-in or Medicaid expansion, but what any of that means in a practical sense remains frustratingly unclear.
Quick transcript of Beto O'Rourke's response on Medicare-for-all in interview with Radio Iowa — bold is mine.
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) March 14, 2019
O’Rourke has had similar word-salad answers in the past — notably when asked if he was a progressive. Rather than saying he was or making a passionate appeal to centrism, O’Rourke eschewed labels altogether and said he “didn’t know” if he was a progressive.
Despite this and ample evidence to the contrary, some supporters have argued O’Rourke’s progressive bona fides making him something of a Democratic Rorschach test. His stances on Medicare for All, the Green New Deal and free public college — all central points for most of the Democratic field — are ill-defined or unclear.
“Trotsky got killed with an ice pick,” said a strategist working for one of O’Rourke’s Democratic rivals.
Even CNBC, who glowingly compared O’Rourke to former Democratic President Barack Obama, admitted they had no idea where he fell politically in the Democratic field, but made it clear that he wasn’t on the left flank.
About the only view that can conclusively be said to be one of O’Rourke’s core beliefs is that he was born to run for president. Oh, and he’s not going to take on Wall Street: Investment bankers are very excited about O’Rourke.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.