WESTERVILLE, Ohio—Elizabeth Warren has a lot of plans—including a plan not to cop to how she would pay for Medicare for All.
It’s a simple answer. Everyone knows it: Taxes would almost certainly have to go up on middle-class families, even if Warren is right that their overall costs would go down. She knows it, too. She’s just decided not to say it.
That decision is bigger for her candidacy than a conversation about health care or the tax code is. On the campaign trail, the senator from Massachusetts has presented herself as the truth-teller, the straight-talker, the one who can break down complex economic ideas and bring nonprogressives along. Now, just as she’s started to get the attention from competitors and the press that comes from leading public polls, she’s insisting on talking in circles. In politics, there’s little more dangerous than moments that undermine a candidate’s core image—even the parody of Warren on Saturday Night Live, from the actor Kate McKinnon, is centered on her brutally telling it like it is.
Warren has been doing a dance on Medicare for All for a long time now. When she was first running for the Senate, in 2012, she didn’t support the idea. Then, in 2017, she signed onto the bill written by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Then, after declaring her presidential candidacy late last year, she ducked questions about her position for months. Finally, onstage for the first debate, in Miami in June, she quickly ended the suspense by saying that she supported the proposal, vaporizing the wedge that Sanders supporters were preparing to drive between them. Yet as her campaign has issued plans on all sorts of smaller policy matters, it has offered little on how she’d pull off the big structural changes she’s proposing.