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Biden Could Campaign on Insulin Price Caps. Could Harris?

Men came out in record numbers to support Biden. This demographic makes it possible for him to appeal to voters on kitchen-table issues—and win.
February 6, 2023
Biden Could Campaign on Insulin Price Caps. Could Harris?
Advocates with T1Internationals New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut Chapters held a vigil on September 5, 2019 outside of Eli Lillys offices at Alexandria Center for Life Science, 450 E 29th Street in New York City, honoring those who have lost their lives due to the high cost of insulin and demand lower insulin prices. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

[On the February 3, 2023 episode of The Bulwark’s “Beg to Differ” podcast, hosted by Mona Charen, guest David Frum points out a unique strength of President Joe Biden’s that might not translate to other potential Democratic candidates in 2024.]

David Frum: So, I don’t have diabetes. I don’t imagine anybody on this panel has diabetes. I think I know one or two people with diabetes, but not very many. . . . On the other hand, I think all of us have opinions about trans issues. So of course we’re going to spend a lot more time discussing trans issues than we’re going to discuss that the Biden administration just capped the price of insulin for people who are on Medicare.

But you know, out there in America, I have a feeling that the cap on insulin for people on Medicare is a big deal.

And one of the fallacies that I think can happen among those of us who discuss politics a lot is that we are just so protected from the kinds of worries that so many Americans have that we lose sight of what is important to them and what is not. So, you will listen to the online discussion—it’s all about these woke issues, by which is usually meant some combination of crime and trans. And the crime thing is really a big deal. That is an authentic big deal. The trans issue . . . is kind of a boutique issue. And meanwhile, I think that we’re setting up to have a big debate in 2024 on the question of: well, [if] insulin is capped for people on Medicare, why can’t it be capped for people not on Medicare?

And if I were the Biden people, I would be [saying,] That’s the ballot question I want. Cap on insulin for everyone who’s not on Medicare. And the Biden people have a lot of room to use bread and butter issues.

Now, they have a great vulnerability, which is [that] they have a candidate problem. Biden did better among men than any Democrat since Bill Clinton in 1996. That is probably the single most important reason why he became the president. And the question is: If he is, for one reason or another, unable to run or unable to run effectively in 2024, is there any other Democrat who can come even close to matching that performance among men? . . .

And if not, is there any plan to make up the gains that Biden made among men with some other group? And the arithmetic on that doesn’t look very promising. And so they have this problem that if Biden can’t run, the next successors all look like people who will repeat a coalition that looks much more like the Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama coalition and less like the Biden coalition, and [they] will not be able to use issues like the price of insulin as effectively as Biden did and could.

David Frum

David Frum, a staff writer at the Atlantic, is the author of ten books, most recently Trumpocracy (2018) and Trumpocalypse (2020). Twitter: @davidfrum.