Former Senators Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota) both lost their re-election bids in 2018. In spite of this loss, they founded the One Country Project to teach Democrats how to connect with rural Americans. And their strategy appears to be simple: prevent healthcare reforms.

One Country’s website is registered to an executive at the lobbying firm Forbes Tate Partners, which is behind an effort to counter the momentum for sweeping healthcare reform.

Despite most Americans, including a majority of Republicans, supporting Medicare for All, Heitkamp took the launch of One Country as a chance to follow Forbes Tate’s lead and bash the policy proposal in a recent Washington Post op-ed.

“Polling indicates that most Americans are satisfied with the health care they receive and do not want their coverage options taken away and replaced with a one-size-fits-all government program,” Heitkamp wrote.

In his last campaign ad, Donnelly said Medicare for All would pass, “over my dead body.”

Heitkamp and Donnelly ran on their opposition to Medicare for All, despite it being popular in their states. This isn’t the first instance of right-wing “Blue Dog” Democrats working with the healthcare industry to oppose Medicare for All either. It’s not even new ground for Forbes Tate.

Forbes Tate’s effort to block Medicare for All, the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future, enlisted the help of Democratic operatives from the Obama and Clinton administrations, as well as staff from Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 bid for the White House.

And in 2016, Democratic political operatives affiliated with Hillary Clinton Super-PACs worked with the insurance industry to block healthcare reform in Colorado.

With Heitkamp and Donnelly having lost their rural states and opposing policies voters in their states support, the usefulness of their perspective in reaching out to rural Democrats seems questionable at best. With rural hospitals in shambles, it isn’t clear that Heitkamp and Donnelly are actually making an effort to help rural America.

Even in defeat, the Blue Dog Democrats continue to assert that they, alone, have the answers needed for 2020.


Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.


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