An instructive exchange from yesterday’s debate:
CRUZ: Did you say if you want people to die on the streets, if you don’t support socialized health care, you have no heart.
TRUMP: Correct. I will not let people die on the streets if I’m president.
CRUZ: Have you said you’re a liberal on health care?
TRUMP: Excuse me. Let me talk. If people…
CRUZ: Talk away. Explain your plan, please.
TRUMP: If people — my plan is very simple. I will not — we’re going to have private — we are going to have health care, but I will not allow people to die on the sidewalks and the streets of our country if I’m president. You may let it and you may be fine with it…
CRUZ: So does the government pay for everyone’s health care?
TRUMP: … I’m not fine with it. We are going to take those people…
CRUZ: Yes or no. Just answer the question.
TRUMP: Excuse me. We are going to take those people and those people are going to be serviced by doctors and hospitals. We’re going to make great deals on it, but we’re not going to let them die in the streets.
CRUZ: Who pays for it?
RUBIO: Well, can I just clarify something?
BLITZER: Gentleman, please.
RUBIO: Wolf, no. I want to clarify something.
BLITZER: Gentlemen please. I want to move on.
RUBIO: This is a Republican debate, right? Because that attack about letting people die in the streets…
BLITZER: I want to talk about the economy.
Will Trump please repudiate his heretical idea that the government has a responsibility to prevent people from dying because they lack access to health care? (I’m sure Cruz and Rubio would say it’s not that they want people to die in the streets but that the magic of TORT REFORM and SELLING INSURANCE ACROSS STATE LINES would prevent that from happening. The only actual distinction between the positions is that the handwaving is more insulting to the intelligence as it would lead to the same place of unnecessary death and suffering.)
Trump’s discussion of health care was, of course, gibberish. But, this being Trump, it was a shrewd appeal to the incoherent preferences of Republican constituents — essentially, ACA benefits like guaranteed issue, somehow without a mandate, and plus “erase the lines around the states” pretending that this would increase consumer choice rather than effectively eliminating regulation of the insurance industry. But it’s also true that the health care discourse of Cruz and Rubio was also a bunch of gibberish about states’ rights that would lead to tens of millions of people losing their access to health care, even if they think that nobody should point that out at a Republican debate.
It is easy — an accurate, as far as it goes — to point out that Trump is a reality TV star with little knowledge or understanding of public policy. But it’s not like there’s a serious wing of the GOP he’s competing with.