Picture Courtesy of Leoncillo Sabino
Remember when Newt Gingrich thought it was a good idea to allow the federal government to shut down rather than give in to the Democratic President regarding budget disputes? Newt thought that the people would blame the President for the shutdown, thus making the President and Democrats look weak, incompetent and impotent against the apparent strength and virility or the newly elected Republican majority Congress. The first term President, Clinton, rightly inferred that if he didn’t stand up to them now, Republicans would usurp all the power of the Federal government for the remainder of his single term as President. The showdown came and a game of chicken ensued. Ultimately, the President allowed the government to shut down rather than give in to Republicans. And that is how President Clinton became the first two-term Democratic President since FDR and ultimately presided over the “longest period of peace-time economic expansion in American history, which included a balanced budget and a federal surplus” Quote is courtesy of wiki.
Why does it seem so hard for so many Democrats to understand that the same thing is happening right now? However, instead of Republicans vs a Democratic President, now there is a showdown brewing between conservatives (including conservadems who call themselves moderates) and everybody else. The main issue that highlights this fomenting confrontation is health care reform, or more specifically, the public option. Public opinion polls show that it is still a very popular idea with those most likely to vote, and that includes the idea of opening up Medicare to people of all ages as long as those under age 65 pay premiums. However, the media still report that many legislators are reluctant to pass any reform bill.
Democratic legislators seem paralyzed by the disparity in their own ranks, and appear oblivious to the fact that Republicans are sitting back laughing at them for it. Republicans believe in party discipline and have long known the value of walking in lockstep with the leaders of their party; Democrats have yet to learn that lesson. So when we call them the “Party of No,” they simply respond that Democrats have a large enough majority to pass anything they want without them, and if the Dems can’t, it’s not their fault. Yet the only way the “Party of No” strategy actually works for Republicans is when it makes Democrats look weak and impotent. Once you put through a health care bill by whatever means necessary, the Republicans ability to portray the Dems as weak and ineffectual will likely reverse. I believe at that point minority leadership will bring their flock around to start to work in a newfound spirit of cooperation, newly chastened and humbler. If then there is still persistent resistance on the part of Democrats, the only remaining reason most citizens will blame for their Representative’s or Senator’s reluctance to do their jobs and legislate even the hard stuff is the fact that legislators’ financial backers, lobbyists for special interest groups of the day, object to it.
Trust me; constituents will not appreciate their representative’s rejection of popular programs that translate into the will of the people no matter how much money the special interest groups pour into their campaigns. This should be a no brainer. Yet some resist, and they resist using reconciliation to enact any possible health care reform as well.
This does not bode well for the re-election of Democrats. Nor do the chances look good for the re-election of a President who squandered his chance for change because he got too busy playing the role of conciliator and consensus builder rather than that of leader. If the President wants to be a conciliator or consensus builder, he should have stayed in the Senate. But for some reason, the President seems to feel that he can convince nearly anyone at anytime of anything, including his fellow party members and even members of the loyal opposition by the force and virtue of his logic and his charisma alone. Fellow Democrats refusal to follow, especially after he backed away from the last thing he convinced folks about, the public option, has made the President’s weakness and impotence as noticeable as an ankle length slip with a knee length dress. Those of his party that are up for re-election might want to remember that as the President flounders, so goes his party. You might want to help the President to support the people’s will, the public option.
The failure of majorities in both houses of Congress and the President of the same party to work together on health care, an accommodation that will be needed as health care cost skyrocket and bankrupt more and more American families, has rendered Democrats extremely ineffective in their jobs. The perception of voters in November will likely be inertia on the Democratic side and fiscal recklessness on the Republican side, with a wide sprinkling of incompetence and corruption on both sides. Both parties’ candidates will continue to be laughing stocks, jokes, fodder for late night comedians. However, this is the Republican’s dreams come true. Their job is easier; they just need to convince voters that it’s not their fault that Democrats are their own worst enemy. And you know what? They’re right, because Dems are the party currently in power so it’s up to them to prove that they can govern.
If Dems want to get re-elected, then they should get busy and work together to develop the health care bill so that it will be acceptable to the majority of the people of this country. The President’s bill needs to be improved, not watered down. A public option to boost competition and help to control costs should be included. There should be no mandates to buy insurance unless a strong public option is included. The bill should protect consumers by preventing companies from using some of their most despicable ploys to get rid of customers the second they need the insurance they’ve been paying for (rescission), or from rejecting people who want to buy insurance or charging double or triple due to pre-existing conditions. A good bill should not tax those whose insurance rates are already high to pay for all of this. Taxes should be assessed to those who can most afford to pay for them. That is not the middle class. Oh, and it would be helpful if something in the bill actually commences during the term of the Congress that passed it. Promises to end the donut hole for the elderly don’t help if the benefits are a decade from implementation. This is likely to be the last chance for Democrats to prove that they can craft a bill that is a win-win and that they have the expertise in lawmaking necessary to be productive partners to a productive Democratic President. Citizens would certainly be pleased if their Congressional representation would prove what they can do to make things better for the American people. Those that are not prepared to do whatever it takes might as well pull a Bayh because neither the Senate nor the House needs them.