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Jeff Barth Says the Magic Words: Single-Payer

Last updated on 2012.05.28

Yeah, yeah, U.S. House candidate Jeff Barth can make a good campaign video. But here's a signal to us Wellstone-Kucinich-McGovern Democrats that Barth can make good policy on health care. On SDPB's South Dakota Focus last Thursday, Jeff Barth and his Dem primary opponent, Matt Varilek, fielded a question about what we do if the Supreme Court overturns the individual mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Varilek said we need to get serious and, unlike Kristi Noem, propose concrete plans for expanding coverage and decreasing cost.

At 31:12, Jeff Barth said this:

When Presdient Truman was elected in 1948, national health care was his top priority. It took 60 years for us to pass anything. If the Supreme Court throws this out, it would be an opportunity ... to fix some of the drawbacks of the current bill.

I love most of the parts of this bill, but there's an old saying, too many cooks spoil the stew.... Clearly the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, the equipment manufacturers all had some part in making this stew [Jeff Barth, interview, SDPB-TV, South Dakota Focus, 2012.05.24].

Barth dings the privateers... but he's just winding up. Here comes the fastball:

And we see some of the problems now where some groups are not wanting to provide the coverage because they claim it's against their moral beliefs. If we had a single-payer system for the entire country, we could take care of that problem [Barth, 2012.05.24].

Single-payer. Single-payer! Be still my liberal heart! While Matt Varilek espouses the weak GOP idea of letting insurance companies compete across state lines (four words: race to the bottom), Jeff Barth expresses support for single-payer, which we know saves money and saves lives.

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin's opposition to President Obama's Affordable Care Act tipped me into calling for a primary challenge against her last time out. Jeff Barth's recognition that single-payer could solve some of our health coverage problems could be the single-issue tipping point that helps me decide which Dem to vote for next Tuesday.

But be forewarned, fellow Dems: Kristi Noem would be just as happy to make single-payer the only issue we talk about this fall. Consider her campaign manager Tom Erickson's response to Barth's popular campaign video:

It's disappointing that Jeff Barth spent more time talking about chess than his support for a single payer, government-run healthcare system. No amount cheesy special effects can hide the fact that Barth is nothing but a dyed-in-the-wool Obama Democrat [Tom Erickson, in Kristen Tripodi, "The Race for South Dakota's Lone Congressional Seat Heats Up," KOTA-TV, 2012.05.24].

Jeff, fellow Dems, are you ready to have that fight?

Related: Barth has an ally in Rep. Jim McDermott. The Washington Democrat plans to introduce legislation that would allow states to use Medicare and Medicaid allotments to set up their own single-payer systems. Jeff! Grab that plan and run it as a states-rights argument against Kristi!


  1. Carter 2012.05.29

    I am officially a Barth supporter. I was leaning toward him, but on the fence, until just now. But after that, I'm going all in for Barth. To think some call him a moderate.

  2. Barry Smith 2012.05.29

    @ Carter single payer is a rational path - what could be more moderate than something rational?

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.29

    Barth may not be a full Kucinich-Wellstone liberal: he's against raising taxes, at least in the current economic situation. But Barry makes the point that swung me to Kucinich and single-payer in the first place: universal health care isn't just feel-good liberalism: it's fiscal conservatism, as it saves money. It's pro-life, because it saves lives.

  4. larry kurtz 2012.05.29

    Barth strikes me as more of a John Tester kind of Democrat: brusque, yet realistic. Varilek reads scripted, crafted to look more like a blue dog.

  5. Bill Fleming 2012.05.29

    Jeff's got my vote.

  6. Bill Fleming 2012.05.29

    (...that is to say, I changed my mind about him.)

  7. larry kurtz 2012.05.29

    Barth is scheduled to be on w/Karl Gehrke on Bill Janklow's idea of public radio in about an hour.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.29

    My ears are on for that show, Larry! Bill, any sense of how many other Dems might be changing their minds?

  9. Rachel 2012.05.29

    There's no way Barth is beating Noem. Funny vid, but no chance in the general. I'm not convinced that Varilek's got a shot, but we're not going to become a Blue state on our wish alone...

  10. larry kurtz 2012.05.29

    Barth started slowly but gained momentum in Karl's interview. His maturity and sincerity came through the radio like warm butter onto toast.

    What he doesn't know now he will learn very quickly. Good job, Jeff; you sold me.

  11. SDprogressive 2012.05.29

    It is truly going to take someone like Barth to beat Noem. He is running an inspired campaign and that is the only way to make up the money difference, look how he neutralized Varilek's lead without spending hardly anything. Now there is a bold and tech savvy campaign

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.29

    Rachel, how do we quantify chances against Noem? How much fire, how much money, how many safe positions... what's the math here?

    Barth is certainly not B. Thomas Marking. He's done his homework. He has ready answers for most policy questions, not just pale recitals of ideology or "common sense." I think he can do just as well on policy as Varilek.

    And I see some merit in the above analysis that says Barth has made some brilliant campaign moves to optimize limited resources. Isn't that part of the job interview process here, finding out who can run most effectively as a discounted and outgunned underdog?

  13. Bill Fleming 2012.05.29

    Cory, no. I've been out of town. Haven't talked to anybody since I got back (Sunday). But my hunch is, there are quite a few who will vote for Barth. Matt V. probably knows, he can afford polling. Jeff probably can't, but again, not sure. The big question mark for me is what Hildy's up to. He can make a lot of things happen if he wants to, I think. But like I said, I've not talked to any of my pals about this as yet. So I won't speculate at this time.

    I will say this, it's pretty cool how many Republicans I've read on FB and elsewhere who truly love Barth's video. I think Jeff might actually win quite a few GOP hearts (in the deep, sacred privacy of the voting booth). Just sayin'.

  14. Taunia 2012.05.29

    What's the projected June 5 primary voter turnout in SD? A lot of these primaries aren't turning out to be something to write home about. Barth's vid ad may not reach everyone, but I bet it reaches a lot of the people paying attention and planning to vote in your primary.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.29

    might win a few GOP hearts—that sounds like another metric for having any shot in November. We've got to get those GOPers who are disenchanted with Noem (and they are out there!) to also feel they can somehow justify crossing the party line, the way SHS did with those Republicans for Herseth so often. Who does that better, Barth or Varilek?

    Projected turnout, Taunia? I haven't heard predictions... but in 2010, with no statewide primary, the Dems primary drew 19.14 percent, while GOPers with Governor and House at stake drew 36.23% (so says Mr. Mercer).

  16. Bill Fleming 2012.05.29

    That's why I like Barth, Cory. I think he can get some GOP votes. More than Matt can. If turnout in the primary is that low, I'm guessing Barth might have a shot. Maybe do another poll and see where your readers are at?

  17. Vickie 2012.05.29

    Voter turnout can be almost impossible to predict at any given time. You just never know how many people are fine with those in office now and how many want change and to what degree they want changes...not to mention voters that may feel somewhat overwhelmed by all of the decisions that they need to make about who and what to vote for.

    Here in Mitchell we've got plenty to vote for. Six mayoral candidates just for starters.

    I'm not willing to write off Barth's chances of winning the primary or even running against Noem.

  18. SDprogressive 2012.05.29

    I don't know if anyone else has noticed this, but from the looks of it Matt V is losing friends on Facebook quite quickly. At one point he had around 840 and I checked his FB page out just now and it is down to 738. I think Gay Marriage and Viral Ad are to blame

  19. grudznick 2012.05.29

    Mr. Fleming, my good friend, I know for sure that you talked to some people on Monday since you got back, so please don't say you haven't talked to anybody. :-P-0

    But your take on Mr. Barth is straight up and right as rain. I think Mr. Barth could get some GOP votes in the secondary, but only if you libbies send him loose from your primary. How could the GOPers vote for him in the primary?

  20. Bill Fleming 2012.05.29

    grudz, can Repubs vote in the Dem primary? I'll have to check. That would be cool if they coud, but I seem to remember it was just indies and dems.

  21. Troy Jones 2012.05.29

    In SD, you can only vote in your own primaries. Indies only vote in general.

    P.S. The number of God's that will vote for Barth or Varilek is minimal. They each need 70% of the indies to win in November.

    Won't happen. Barth's single payer kills that. Varilek's Keystone opposition kills that. The only question is if either will get to 40%.

    I bet not.

  22. Jeff Barth 2012.05.29

    First: Independents CAN vote in the Democratic primary (please note Troy).

    Second: I favor the pipeline, Matt favors the pipeline.

    Third: Noem's Medicare "Death Panel" will cost her more than Obamacare will cost me when people hear about it.

    PS. Hey Independents!! Vote for me.

  23. Barry Smith 2012.05.29

    According to the SOS Independents can vote in the Dem primary only.

  24. Barry Smith 2012.05.29

    Sorry didn't mean to be redundant- I didn't see Jeff"s post before I posted :-)

  25. Troy Jones 2012.05.29

    I stand corrected. Indies can't vote in GOP primaries.

    Sidebar:. As one who wants a strong two party system, you need two strong parties. Allowing non Dems to vote in your primary doesnt make your party stronger. I guess it helps explain why your elected representatives meet in a phone booth (an apology that will soon be defunct).

  26. Troy Jones 2012.05.29


  27. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.29

    Troy, I'm not sure I can find a causal relationship between our decision to open our primary led to our 2010 losses. I don't think we saw a great influx of Indies to our 2010 primary... but that was because we didn't have much to offer. Our hope in the open primary is to get some Indies to make some early buy-in and be more inclined to support our nominee in November.

  28. Bill Fleming 2012.05.29

    Troy, I love your typos almost as much as I love mine. My fave in this thread is yours at 20:29 where you write, "The number of God’s that will vote for Barth or Varilek is minimal." I'll let you explain your way out of that one, brother. LOL

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.29

    Troy, do you have a hyperactive autocorrect on that keypad? The thing's not random; it has a mind of its own!

  30. Jeff Barth 2012.05.29

    "Walking Man"

  31. Winston 2012.05.29

    What is the issue of 2012? ... "It's Medicare Stupid!"

  32. Troy Jones 2012.05.30


    It is a hyperactive auto correct. When I try to just do your initials, it puts in either "Christian" or "Christmas.". I try to watch it but even then I can accidentally hit "post." Only occurs on my tablet. The phone typos are fat finger related (phone keyboards were designed for 15 yo girls).

    Regarding your open primary, I get your rationale. Just think it has MAYBE short-term selective positive impact. But long-term, it is a killer. I very sincerely want two strong parties as I think it will insure the best government.

    I just ask the question, "why buy the cow if milk is for free?"

    Why be an active motivated Democrat if an Independent gets the same say?

    Do you really think the indie respects you in the morning?

    Cory, the short-term goal of parties is to win elections. The long-term goal is to build a long-term base. I think what you have sounds good (open is a "good" term and all) but it is in effect a slow insidious poison.

    For all you libs who wonder if my advice is sincere, I would go ballistic if the GOP would go to open parties. I want to invite indies to permanently live in my tent. I don't want to be a one night stand.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.30

    I do not doubt the sincerity of your advice, Troy. I won't play the snarky line I hear in the DWC comment section, where unknown honyockers tell me I have no business commenting on GOP primaries.

    I hope this doesn't turn into an allegory about the two parties' positions on the sanctity of marriage... but I'm not worried that such ongoing one-night stands would hurt the party. I don't see an open primary losing us "active motivated Democrats." Folks who are inclined to participate in party meetings and conventions and fundraising probably aren't clinging to their Independent status. I also don't see hordes of snarky Indies using and abusing us with Limbaugh-esque Operations Chaos.

    And don't we benefit from road-testing our primary candidates to see who can make the sale to an important part of the electorate outside of our party lines? I don't think our short-term and long-term goals conflict here. If we can win more elections, we build more power and credibility. Those victories build the party by drawing more people to come play with us.

  34. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.30

    (...and Christian? Christmas? O.K., now clearly there's consciousness and conspiracy afoot. Who built your tablet, Ouija Inc.?)

  35. Troy 2012.05.30


    My tablet was built by St. Thomas, who evangalized in hostile territory. :)

    I figured your open primary response would be that. So be it. Just consider yourself warned. What happened to Dem registration since you opened your primary? It went down while the GOP continues to climb. :)

  36. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.30

    Interesting empirical observation. Yet Dem fundraising is up. We should get ambitious and analyze correlation of open primaries and party affiliation state by state.

  37. Carter 2012.05.30

    Forgive me for derailing here, but I'd very much like to hear Troy's rationale for a strong two party system (as opposed to a zero party, three party, or X-many party system).

    From my perspective, two parties are awful. People who are part of a group are naturally going to align themselves with ideas that make them part of that group, and having two parties just results in gridlock and partisanship that destroys cooperation.

    Having multiple parties avoids this because it forces cooperation. In order for gridlock to occur, the multiple parties must be evenly and stubbornly split on issues, which is much less likely to happen when many more groups are involved. If a single party does it, then instead of everything grinding to a halt, that party simply ends up losing seats in the next election when it comes to light that they refuse to play ball and so end up sitting it out.

    Also, it allows for less streamlining of party opinion. Both the Dems and the GOP have no choice but to pander to the middle of the road. We'll never have someone who supports Steve's ideas, or Cory's ideas, or my ideas, because we're all too far left or right for the parties to cater to us. Add a few more parties and suddenly we all get a better chance at being supported.

  38. Bill Fleming 2012.05.30

    I think the point is, Dems are inclusive, not exclusive. We're not a "purity" party. It's an interesting contrast to the civil war raging in the GOP. Last I checked, most Indys were disgusted Republicans. The open primary gives them a chance to vote... a concept which appears to be anathema to many in the GOP these days. If you don't 't vote Republican, hey don't want you voting, period. There's a fundamental difference between our two parties, Troy. We don't care how people vote, we just want them to DO it.

  39. Troy 2012.05.30


    Multiple parties work in a Parliamentary System where Parliament picks the head of state. However, in our system, too many parties can result in a very minority President/Governor with insufficent breadth of support.

  40. Bill Fleming 2012.05.30

    That's only true in the general, Troy. If everyone could vote in all primaries, the general would be a runoff between two "people's choice" candidates, no?

  41. Carter 2012.05.30


    The possibility is there, but I think the chance of it actually occurring is pretty low. When you first implement it, sure. People will still be inclined to only voting within their chosen party. But after an election or two people will begin to understand that the entire idea behind multiple parties is to give people freedom to choose who they think is best. There will be less voting along party lines (and fewer people joining the parties) because the "best" candidate isn't necessarily always from the same party.

    I always vote Democrat because the other option is Republican and I never, ever agree with GOP ideals as a whole. But if there were a couple of left-wing parties, I could pick and choose between them and decide individually who I thought was best. It might be Kucinich one day, and it might be Nader the next, and it might be Feingold the next, for example. It wouldn't just be "My party's guy".

    Besides, Congress is more important, anyway. That's where most of the power is. The President is more of a foreign relations entity. He has the most power individually, sure, but he doesn't have a whole lot, officially. Most of the power he wields is as a kind of leader for his party. What he wants is what the party wants. When you have fewer Congressmen on the side of the President, then he becomes less influential.

    As for how this relates to the topic at hand, I think it would allow for all parties to be inclusive, as Bill said above (and which is good), but it allows them to be less Borg-like. "Inclusive" at the moment means "Assimilating". Dems try to collect all the non-GOP voters to vote for their guy (Obama in this case, a DINO-ish candidate we could avoid with multiple parties).

  42. Bill Fleming 2012.05.30

    Think "melting pot" (which is different than "smoking pot"...) LOL. Besides, Troy, what do you expect? We're liberals, for heaven's sake.

  43. larry kurtz 2012.05.30

    Interesting that Troy chooses to marginalize Gary Johnson's influence on the race: 8% carved out of the GOP base could make it a close contest in South Dakota.

    Since Ron Paul is still on the ballot in remaining primaries, the results could prove that Willard Romney's support in western states is very weak.

    The GOP should be scared spitless.

  44. Barry Smith 2012.05.30

    Bill describes my political "evolution" to a tee in this thread. I was a disgruntled Republican who switched to Independent and then finally to the Party of my Grandfathers. In the democrat party I can still be an Independent, there is no litmus test or anyone telling me that I am a traitor to the cause because I don't see things exactly as they do.

  45. Troy 2012.05.30

    Carter, I understand the argument. People in the GOP have advocated it as well for as long as I've been in politics.

    I just don't accept it. And, maybe this is the source of my difference with Bob. He would like to have 100% pure members. I think this would have the effect you advocate (multiple parties). Multiple parties work well in Parliamentary situations where post election majorities are built.

    My belief is the best situation is to have two very strong parties who vett candidates on character/skill basis (which is why I think selective party endorsements are ok) and then the two parties each put up their best candidate (which is why both parties, to be strong, must accept a continuum with regard to purity from both candidates and members). Independents (both as candidates and voters) keep the two parties on their toes.

    A Democrat party who only nominates from its fringe (most pure) will have limited success in the general. Same with the GOP.

  46. Bill Fleming 2012.05.30

    Troy and Carter, interesting discussion. If you get down to brass tacks, what we really have is a combination of both your suggestions.

    Hardly anybody is a "pure" D or R.

    That's what gives the lie to Ellis and the Scorecard people.

    You can believe all you want that you know someone else's heart, but the fact is, you don't.

    We are all, essentially, a "party of one."

    We gather together to win elections.

    To the degree you try to make it into more than that, you alienate potential membership (and thus lose political clout).

    There is nothing magic about a party platform. Depending on which one were talking about, I find myself in agreement with at least half the planks listed on most of them. Some a little more, some less.

    But the notion that one party can own any particular platform plank exclusively is ridiculous. (Which of course, Bob Ellis is, in spades.)

    Sibby, by the way, is the opposite. He doesn't subscribe to any specific platform or creed, only his conscience. I respect him for his honesty for that, even as I marvel at some of the off-the-wall things his conscience tells him.

  47. grudznick 2012.05.30

    As much as I may be lambasted for wading into this pond of watered down dung, I am hereby calling the race for Mr. Varileck. As the immediate past-president of the Conservatives with Common Sense, I have weighed the two candidates in the Demo Haus Race and have cast my support and endorsement behind Mr. Barth. This endorsement is made strictly on the meat of the issues. And his likeability. And style of hair and clothing.

    However, we are now calling this race for Mr. Varileck, by 11 points. And we did this before KOTA or KKLS made the call.

    ***grudznick is a nationally syndicated author. He has been a conservative activist and consultant for over 52 years and is currently the immediate past president of the Conservatives with Common Sense. He is considering becoming sane and producing a program called Liberty Tomorrow, a weekly television series that will be seen on cable systems in most of South Dakota and beyond, in 3D, HDTV, and PPV (whatever those are)***

  48. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.30

    Grudz, when you wade into a pond, you always increase the dung concentration. Thank you. ;-)

  49. Troy Jones 2012.05.30

    Grudz, hilarious. Wife thinks I am reading a off color email.

  50. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.30

    Mrs. Jones! Your husband is reading liberal trash! Join him!

  51. Barry Smith 2012.05.31

    Aberdeen news posted these test returns yesterday. Anybody know what this is?

  52. Nick Nemec 2012.05.31

    It looks like a test run for the election.

  53. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.05.31

    Barry, I've seen test returns like that on a number of online newspaper sites. Nick appears to be right. Maybe they are just testing format for all those numbers... but I test format here on the blog all the time by hitting the "Preview" button, not by hitting "Publish" and letting everyone see my test. Would any journalists here care to explain this practice?

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