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The Record (Troy, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Dana Milbank Fol­low Dana Milbank on Twit­ter, @Milbank. Colum­nist

Find out what the hot takes of the day are in the na­tion's head­lines.

When Bernie San­ders launched his bid for the Demo­cratic nom­i­na­tion, he was of­ten asked whether he, a demo­cratic so­cial­ist, would ac­tu­ally be­come a Demo­crat. Now, more than a year after he ig­nited a move­ment with his un­suc­cess­ful bid, that ques­tion is moot. The Democrats have be­come so­cial­ists.

This be­came of­fi­cial, more or less, Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, when San­ders rolled out his so­cial­ized health- care plan, Medi­care for All, and he was sup­ported by 16 of his Se­nate Demo­cratic col­leagues who signed on as co- spon­sors, in­clud­ing the party’s ris­ing stars and po­ten­tial pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates in 2020: El­iz­a­beth War­ren. Cory Booker. Ka­mala Harris. Kirsten Gil­li­brand.

Sev­eral of them du­ti­fully joined San­ders, who is threat­en­ing an­other pres­i­den­tial run him­self, at the roll­out event in one of the largest hear­ing rooms on Capi­tol Hill and praised the guru of the sin­gle- payer move­ment for gov­ern­ment- run uni­ver­sal health care.

“I’m all in on this. Thank you, Bernie,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley ( Ore.).

Gil­li­brand ( N. Y.): “I will be stand­ing with Bernie.”

War­ren ( Mass.): “I want to say thank you to Bernie for all that you have done.”

“The rea­son we have a chance to achieve” sin­gle- payer health care, said Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal ( Conn.), “is be­cause of ad­vo­cates like Bernie San­ders and El­iz­a­beth War­ren.”

This is a dra­matic shift. In 2013, when San­ders in­tro­duced sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion, he didn’t have a sin­gle co- spon­sor. By con­trast, you could have been for­given for think­ing Wed­nes­day’s roll­out, with San­ders, War­ren, Booker, Harris and Gil­li­brand test­ing their mes­sages, was the first Demo­cratic cat­tle call of the 2020 cam­paign. There were a cou­ple hun­dred lib­eral ac­tivists in the room( many of them veter­ans of the San­ders cam­paign and a few wear­ing “Join the Po­lit­i­cal Revo­lu­tion” San­ders Tshirts) and an­other 50 in an over­flow room.

This em­brace of an un­abashedly so­cial­ist po­si­tion by the Democrats de­lights no­body more than the orig­i­nal so­cial­ists, the Demo­cratic So­cial­ists of America. David Duhalde, the group’s deputy di­rec­tor, was one of the first in line for the event, car­ry­ing a Medi­care-for-All sign.

“So­cial­ism has been most suc­cess­ful in this coun­try when its ideas have been adopted by other par­ties,” he said, list­ing the en­act­ment of la­bor laws, So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care. But “this is a high water­mark,” he said.

In the short term, I’ve ar­gued, this de­vel­op­ment is a bad thing for Democrats. The na­tion’s fo­cus has been on di­vi­sions among Repub­li­cans and their in­abil­ity to en­act any sort of agenda un­der Pres­i­dent Trump. The sin­gle­payer is­sue high­lights Demo­cratic di­vi­sions and united Repub­li­cans.

Notably, only one Demo­crat who faces a com­pet­i­tive re- elec­tion, Sen. Tammy Bald­win ( Wis.), signed on with San­ders. The so­cial­ized-medicine bill is pop­u­lar with the Demo­cratic base but is a li­a­bil­ity for Demo­cratic can­di­dates in the swing districts and Repub­li­can states that Democrats need towin to re­take the House and Se­nate.

The di­vi­sions were on dis­play Wed­nes­day: As Harris spoke, a mem­ber of the left- wing group Code Pink held up a large cutout of the head of Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein ( D- Calif.), who is up for re­elec­tion and doesn’t sup­port the San­ders bill. Be­neath Fe­in­stein’s photo were the words “Health­care De­nier.”

The Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee, seiz­ing the rare op­por­tu­nity to play of­fense, sent out a news re­lease and a video at­tack­ing the plan: “Leg­is­la­tion does NOT in­clude how to pay for the $ 32 tril­lion pro­gram… Plans of 156M(!!) Amer­i­cans would be up­ended.” And Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham ( R- S. C.), an­nounc­ing yet an­other at­tempt at re­peal­ing Oba­macare on Wed­nes­day, tried to use the San­ders plan to re­vive the mori­bund ef­fort. He said his bill was Repub­li­cans’ “best and only chance” to pre­vent sin­gle- payer health care.

It’s not hard to see Gra­ham’s prophecy com­ing true over time, par­tic­u­larly if Repub­li­cans, un­able to re­place Oba­macare, con­tinue to sab­o­tage the pro­gram and let it fall apart, leav­ing mil­lions with­out health care. Repub­li­cans have an­other prob­lem fight­ing sin­gle- payer care now. Be­cause they called Oba­macare “so­cial­ized medicine,” even though it’s amar­ket- based plan, they have noth­ing worse to fire at Democrats for em­brac­ing the real thing.

San­ders lost the nom­i­na­tion bat­tle to Hil­lary Clin­ton ( who fa­vored a more in­cre­men­tal ap­proach to health care and gives the sin­gle- payer de­bate lit­tle men­tion in her new book about the cam­paign). But he seems to be win­ning the war over the di­rec­tion of the Demo­cratic agenda. San­ders nowhas 35 per­cent of the Se­nate Demo­cratic Cau­cus, and some of the big­gest names in the party, em­brac­ing his call. So when he pre­dicts, as he did Wed­nes­day, that “this na­tion, sooner than peo­ple be­lieve, will in fact pass a Medi­care-for- All, sin­gle- payer sys­tem,” it doesn’t sound as crazy as it once did.

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