L'esprit de l'escalier is most acutely felt after one appears on television to run one's mouth—at least in our experience. Consequently, one really has no choice but to get drunk and/or high after appearing on a program like Real Time. Make the mistake of remaining sober and thoughts of what one should have said or meant to say are likely to keep one up all night. (We watched the excellent King Charles III last night—please forgive us.)
For instance... last Friday I urged Democrats to get better about messaging. The best example of lousy Democratic messaging: continuing to call Social Security and Medicare "entitlements." Democrats should be calling these programs what they are: earned benefits. Because no one likes an entitled jerk but everyone admires people who've earned something. This isn't a new idea, it's not my idea. Mike Lofgren, a GOP operative who came to his senses and turned on the nihilist right, urged Democrats to stop using the term "entitlements" way, way back in 2011:
[Democrats] do not understand language. Their initiatives are posed in impenetrable policy-speak: the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The what? Can anyone even remember it? No wonder the pejorative "Obamacare" won out. Contrast that with the Republicans' Patriot Act. You're a patriot, aren't you? Does anyone at the GED level have a clue what a Stimulus Bill is supposed to be? Why didn't the [Obama] White House call it the Jobs Bill and keep pounding on that theme?
You know that Social Security and Medicare are in jeopardy when even Democrats refer to them as entitlements. "Entitlement" has a negative sound in colloquial English: somebody who is "entitled" selfishly claims something he doesn't really deserve. Why not call them "earned benefits," which is what they are because we all contribute payroll taxes to fund them? That would never occur to the Democrats.
No Democrat should ever use the word entitlement, Democrats should work "earned benefits" into any discussion/hearing/interview about Social Security or Medicare, and a Democrat who's asked about "entitlements" should stare blankly at the reporter until they restate the question using "earned benefits." Messaging! In the same way the entire LGBT movement had the messaging discipline to stop using "gay marriage" half way through the fight for marriage equality and started using, well, marriage equality in its place (because everyone is pro-marriage* and equality is a good thing), Democrats should have the messaging discipline to stop using "entitlements" and start using "earned benefits."
Anyway! There was something I meant to say when we were talking about messaging and I've been suffering from spasms of l'esprit de l'escalier ever since: Democrats shouldn't use "single-payer" when talking about providing healthcare to all Americans. It's too easy for Republicans to twist "single-payer" into a negative; it's a slow pitch over the right over the plate. ("When they talk about single payer, they mean you! You, the American taxpayer, you're going to pay and pay and pay! And for what? To give free health care away to undeserving people who don't work as hard as you do!") Instead of "single payer," Democrats should use "universal healthcare." Because everyone is pro-universe and healthcare is a good thing. Or, better still, Democrats should use Medicare For All, because Medicare because people know what Medicare is and the program is popular.
Republicans are already working to make "single payer" sound sinister. Here's Sean Spicer last month:
“When you look at the majority of House Democrats, they support a single-payer, $32 trillion bill backed by Bernie Sanders,” Spicer said last month. “We need to accept that Obamacare is dead, we need to understand that the reality is that what the choice is between putting in a system that is affordable and accessible, or a single-payer $32 trillion health-care plan that the majority of House Democrats support.”
This was farther down in the same article in today's Washington Post:
“Medicare for all” polls better than either party’s current health care positions. Last month, a new study from Pew Research found 60 percent of all voters agreeing that it was “the federal government’s responsibility to make sure Americans have health coverage.”
Last month Elizabeth Warren made news by saying "it was time" for Democrats to run on single-payer health care. I disagree. It's time for Democrats to run on Universal Coverage, aka Medicare-For-All.