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EDITORIAL: Reid urges Democrats to be less radical on health care, immigration

If the Democratic Party keeps embracing the fringe left, Harry Reid might have to re-register as a Republican.

In a recent interview with Vice, the former Senate majority leader urged Democrats not to support “Medicare for All” and decriminalizing illegal border crossings. As recently as two years ago, those two radical ideas would have been seen as extreme among mainstream Democrats. Not now. Many of the party’s top presidential candidates have embraced both proposals.

Mr. Reid said “of course” pushing Medicare for All would make it more difficult for a Democrat to defeat President Donald Trump.

“How are you going to get it passed?” he said. “I think that we should focus on improving Obamacare. We can do that — without bringing something that would be much harder to sell.”

Further entrenching Obamacare is hardly a GOP talking point. It’s telling, too, that Mr. Reid, one of those most responsible for the bill’s passage, acknowledges that Barack Obama’s signature achievement needs fixing. With the strain the program has placed on federal and state budgets, the better move would be scrapping it.

But because he doesn’t want to eliminate private insurance, Mr. Reid now qualifies as a moderate Democrat. Most Medicare for All plans would outlaw private insurance, including employer-provided plans. That would kick 160 million people off insurance plans they’re largely satisfied with and make criminals out of doctors and patients who went outside the government-imposed system.

Then there’s the issue of paying for the largest expansion of the federal government in the nation’s history. Of the prominent presidential candidates, only Sen. Bernie Sanders has the intellectual honesty to admit single-payer will require middle-class tax hikes.

Several Democrat candidates, including Sens. Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris now support decriminalizing illegal border crossing, too. Mr. Reid told Vice that advocating this position would make it harder to win a general election. “People want a fair immigration system,” he said. “They don’t want an open-door invitation for everybody to come at once.”

Mr. Reid’s position on illegal immigration is closer to that of Mr. Trump’s than the leading Democrat presidential candidates, outside of former vice president Joe Biden. Mr. Reid has said he won’t endorse before Nevada’s presidential caucus, but it seems clear he favors Mr. Biden.

Over the decades, Mr. Reid used his considerable political skills to push many liberal policies and causes. Now, unshackled by political considerations, Mr. Reid is free to point out just how radical the Democratic Party has become and to chide many of its leading presidential candidates for being progressive extremists. Voters should pay attention.

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