With Eye on 2020, Jason Kander Gets Behind Single-Payer

Kander opposed single-payer during failed Senate campaign

Jason Kander / Getty Images
August 15, 2017

Failed Democratic Senate candidate Jason Kander has dropped his opposition to single-payer health care as rumors continue to circulate that the former Missouri secretary of state plans to run for president in 2020.

Kander won applause from the crowd of liberal activists at Netroots Nation over the weekend by stating, "health care should be a right in this country" and "that means we should be for single-payer."

This is far from the health care position Kander held during his 2016 attempt to unseat Sen. Roy Blunt (R., Mo.), when Kander opposed Hillary Clinton's call to expand Obamacare with a public option. He argued that some Obamacare mandates should be scaled back or repealed and also that a scaled-down coverage option should be offered for people "fortunate enough" to not need much medical care.

Kander did not explain his health care transformation during his Netroots speech, but he did state generally his belief that Democrats have been "scared" to defend Obamacare, and it was time for them to be "honest" about what they believe in.

"For years Democrats were scared to make an argument for Obamacare," Kander explained. "For whatever reason, folks all over the country were scared to lean all the way into it."

Kander said the recent failure of Republicans to repeal Obamacare is proof it is time to "embrace universal health care."

"We made the argument, and we saw an important victory that will save lives," Kander said. "So we shouldn't stop making that argument."

"We should take that energy and we should be honest about what we believe," he said. "What we believe is that health care should be a right in this country, and I happen to believe that means we should be for single-payer."

The issue of health care has proven difficult to navigate for Democrats in Missouri, a state President Donald Trump won by nearly 20 points.

Missouri senator Claire McCaskill (D.), facing reelection in 2018, has been forced to walk a tightrope on the health care issue due to single-payer calls from the Bernie Sanders wing of the party. She is now facing a primary opponent running mainly on her own support for single-payer.

Kander, meanwhile, is believed to have his eyes set on more than Missouri.

Since his November defeat Kander has traveled to speak with voters in key primary states New Hampshire and Iowa, and received national attention by campaigning for Jon Ossoff in Georgia's special election. He also launched a federally registered nonprofit, Let America Vote, aimed at making a national argument for voting rights.

Kander did not respond to an interview request sent to his group.

His call for an embrace of single-payer was celebrated by both his audience and websites such as Salon, which quickly posted video of his speech along with "WATCH: Jason Kander makes the single-payer argument Democrats need to adopt."

Salon describes Kander as a "rising Missouri Democrat," despite his recent electoral defeat.