Photo: Getty

Is Joe Biden running for president of the United States or the private health insurance fan club? It’s hard to say at this point.

In the latest iteration of his campaign for Best Good Insurance-Loving Boy, he posted an ad featuring a woman who just loves her private insurance and wants to keep it.

The rhetoric in this ad is fundamentally conservative. The woman in the ad, identified only as Marcy, says that she has private insurance that she wants to keep, because “my husband and I worked for over 30 years, I feel we earned that benefit.” The implication of this is that if you didn’t work, you didn’t earn your healthcare, and you don’t deserve what she has—private, better healthcare than Medicare for All, or whatever the masses get. It is an argument for a two-tiered system where some people get better care than others. This is a message that would fit in just fine in a Paul Ryan speech. (This is not Marcy’s fault, mind you—it’s the message Joe Biden wants you to hear.)

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The follow-up tweet makes an even more cynical argument, aimed at union members:

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The idea that because their union had to fight for a healthcare plan, that means it necessarily must be better for them to keep having to fight for it, is absurd. If decent healthcare was not something that workers had to fight their bosses over—if it wasn’t attached to their job at all, for example—they could fight for other things instead, such as higher wages, or better working conditions. Adequate healthcare should not be a bargaining chip that your boss can degrade in exchange for adequate retirement or childcare provision. Your union should not have to compromise on healthcare at all, nor should they have to compromise on anything else to win a good healthcare plan.

What Joe Biden is doing is sick. His entire healthcare message is an implicit threat—that if you’re not currently in thousands of dollars of medical debt or dying of a preventable disease because you couldn’t go to the doctor, things can only get worse for you if we take the risk of transitioning to Medicare for All. He is appealing to those who have managed to make our healthcare nightmare just about work for them (for now, anyway) and lying to them about what would happen if Medicare for All happened.

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The American healthcare system is not logical, humane, or just, but the former vice president is using the assumptions baked into that sick system to frighten voters away from fighting for anything else. It is abusive. It’s like threatening a group of prisoners that if they broke down the walls of the jail, they won’t have the thin blankets they’re used to anymore—never mind if what’s outside the jail is a warm bed and a cup of cocoa. Just don’t mention that part.

Biden is fully committed to running a presidential campaign that tells the lies the healthcare industry wants told in order to make it harder for Medicare for All to pass. The best case scenario here is that he’s willing to say anything to win—but if he loses, and a better candidate does try to pass Medicare for All, he’s spent months and millions on making it far harder. A worse scenario is that he’s dumb enough to believe all this. Worse still, he’s acting on behalf of the sick industries that profit off this system, and who spend millions on lobbyists—including a top campaign aide of his—to keep it this way.

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A Democrat should not be making conservative arguments in favor of private insurance. This is not some insane lefty litmus test; it’s common sense.