It's Now or Never for Obama and Democratic Governance
by gobacktotexas, Tue Jul 21, 2009 at 07:48:17 PM EDT
Roosevelt considered it. Truman tried it--and failed. Kennedy was blocked, Johnson succeeded in part, Nixon nearly did it, Clinton was nearly destroyed in trying to do it. Now President Barack Obama wants to undertake the most radical act of his presidency, and bring us universal health care. If he succeeds, it will reinvigorate our society, ending a fundamental injustice in one of the wealthiest nations in the world. If he fails, it will spell the end of the yet short lived Democratic dominance of Washington.
Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and even Richard Nixon, considered some form of universal health care. Roosevelt and Johnson experienced some success in incremental reforms, Nixon was forced to resign for reasons unrelated to health care, and Bill Clinton's dramatic health care defeat set the stage for 12 years of Republican congressional dominance and the extreme right-wing political philosophy which underscored the Bush era.
That philosophy was soundly, overwhelmingly rejected in the election of 2008. Barack Obama, whose campaign was in large part centered on health-care reform, was given a firm mandate: a solid majority of the popular vote, and an overwhelming victory in the electoral college. Democrats increased their already impressive majority in the House, and came within reach of a fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate. In essence, if ever they were to be so, the stars were aligned for Barack Obama, and specifically for health-care reform in 2009.
The debate over health-care reform has reached a fever-pitch in recent weeks as key committees in the House and Senate have produced (or so far failed to produce) bills which may form some of the components of new reality of health care in the United States of America, one in which all citizens are covered.
But within the halls of Congress, particularly the Senate, there is a great deal of trepidation about health care reform. Any meaningful health-care reform proposal will include a powerful public option, effective immediately, which would give all Americans the right to enroll in health insurance without paying a "multi-millionaire health insurance company CEO" surcharge.
Yet this basic proposition, which should not be too controversial in a nominally center-left party, particularly one which has come to power on a platform of reforming health care, in an election where health-care was an issue of great chagrin to a large number of the American populace, is apparently yet a controversial one within the Democratic party.
The Democrats today have an overwhelming majority in both houses of Congress. It is completely within their power to pass meaningful health care reform at this juncture. If they do not or cannot, because of some corruption (ie blue dogism) in their midst, then President Obama and the Democratic party will limp on, until November 2010, when devastating losses will be incurred. Because, if, with an overwhelming majority, the Democrats cannot pass the centerpiece of a recently-elected, popular President's agenda, what exactly do the Democrats stand for anyway?
What do the Democrats stand for if they are unable to deliver on this vital issue under optimally favorable circumstances. I for one think that the "1994 analogy" is vastly overplayed in our current political discourse. The 1994 analogy says about every key issue: if we do this, we will be playing into the hands of the Republicans, and setting the stage for a Republican congressional victory in 2010. Our society is a dramatically different one than that which existed in 1994, and I think there is a solid majority which is now comfortable with Democratic governance, and confident in the ability of Democrats to govern in the long-term.
But there is one caveat: if on the central issue of importance to voters (and one which Democrats promised to solve in the last campaign), even with a powerful mandate, Democrats cannot deliver on health reform, the confidence voters have vested may well be shattered.
It's now or never, Democrats.