The Atlantic Politics Daily: What Warren Won’t Say

Elizabeth Warren emerges as a front-runner with one particular hangup: admitting how to pay for Medicare for All.

Today in Politics

It’s Thursday, October 16. Today, interrogating the 2020 Democratic front-runner. ¶ Plus, putting a price tag on Medicare for All. ¶ Finally, have you heard of Jon McNaughton? You may have seen his art.


What Warren Won’t Say

The latest Democratic primary debate lacked electricity. Overshadowing the wholly “disorienting evening,” David Graham writes, is the ongoing impeachment inquiry:

“There are several reasons the debate never really took off, but the central problem was that each of the candidates is seeking to excite the Democratic base, and right now the thing that is most exciting to Democrats is impeaching Donald Trump.”

[Read the rest of “The Democatic Primary Is Now a Sideshow,” by David Graham]

The only flare-ups of the night were between Elizabeth Warren and those who essentially anointed her as the front-runner through their direct challenges. Our writers have long interrogated the “I have a plan” candidate on her plans:

1. “The tenor of the critiques Warren received tonight were far milder versions of the attacks she’ll have to fend off from Republicans if she’s the nominee,” Russell Berman writes.

2. “Elizabeth Warren has a lot of plans—including a plan not to cop to how she would pay for Medicare for All,” Edward-Isaac Dovere reports from Ohio.

3. She’s been asked a variation of this question at every debate, and “she’s sticking to her party’s age-old wariness of telling middle-class families in a simple sound bite that their tax bill might go up,” Russell points out.

4. Warren’s higher-education proposals “have been welcome in the black college community—even though the mechanics of exactly how the fund will operate are still a bit messy,” our education reporter Adam Harris writes, after interviewing Warren earlier this year.

5. Warren laid some groundwork for her foreign-policy thinking in a major speech nearly a year ago. “But it’s already becoming clear that when it comes to foreign policy, Warren’s vision is more conventional; Bernie Sanders’s is more radical. And both leave crucial questions unresolved,” Peter Beinart argued then.

Argument of the Day


A new study puts a price tag for a plan candidates like Warren and Bernie Sanders was defending last night: $34 trillion in the first decade of its operation. Ron Brownstein takes a hard look at the eye-popping figure:

The Urban Institute estimates that a single-payer plan would require $32 trillion in new tax revenue over the coming decade.

How big a lift is it to raise $32 trillion? It’s almost 50 percent more than the total revenue the CBO projects Washington will collect from the personal income tax over the next decade (about $23.3 trillion). It’s more than double the amount the CBO projects Washington will collect over the next decade from the payroll tax that funds Social Security and part of Medicare (about $15.4 trillion).

→ Read Brownstein’s full story here.

+ More from Ron: “How L.A.’s Health-Care Reform Is a Lesson for Democrats.”

Before You Go


Even if you haven’t heard of the artist Jon McNaughton, you’ve seen his work in your news and social-media feeds.

He’s gone viral with paintings of President Donald Trump clutching the American flag (Respect the Flag), Trump playing football (All-American Trump), and Trump at the easel unveiling his masterpiece (The Masterpiece). McNaughton is the closest thing the Trump administration has to a court artist, although liberals see him as more of a court jester. Art critics call him a propagandist and purveyor of populist schlock. He “panders and preaches to the converted” with work that is “drop-dead obvious in message,” says Jerry Saltz, the senior art critic for New York magazine. Others see McNaughton as a straight-up comedian.

→ A professor of art history tries to understand Trump’s court artist.

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. Today’s edition was written by Shan Wang. You can reach us with questions, comments, or concerns anytime by replying directly to this email.

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