The Political Hazards Of “Health Care Reform”
The NY Times tells us this morning that we’re likely to get health care reform whether we want it or not.
Frankly I’m not sure why that should be a surprise to anyone. Democrats know that they have to pass something or they’ll effectively, to use Howard Dean’s phrase, “kill the presidency” of Barack Obama.
So it should come as no surprise, really, that Democrats are finally talking about whatever is necessary, to include completely ignoring Republicans, to get a bill through both houses of Congress for the president’s signature.
But the exclusion of Republicans doesn’t mean smooth sailing for Democrats. Numbers-wise they certainly have the majorities they need in both houses to pass legislation. This particular legislation, however, has become fraught with political danger. Many Democrats are very wary of it because of the demonstrated unhappiness of their constituencies and the probable 2010 impact that may have. This is especially true of more conservative Democrats, even those is primarily Democratic districts. And “Blue Dogs” who managed to win in historically red districts are terrified.
Certainly by cutting out the Republicans, they can write the legislation as they want it. But certain parts, such as the so-called “death panels” and “public option”, have little public support. And, in general, polls continue to make the point that a majority of Americans want this present attempt scratched and want Congress to “start over”.
On top of that, it appears the majority of Americans do not agree that “something” has to be passed quickly. Instead, it appears, the public wants an extended debate and believe that such a debate is just beginning.
That sets up the conflict of political interests the Democrats face. They believe, now that they’ve brought it up and the president has made it one of his signature issues, that unless they pass it (or something they can call “health care reform”) they’ll have set him up for failure. However, they are also coming to realize that passing something now despite a majority of Americans saying slow down and start over could be hazardous to their political health – and majorities.
As they finally did with George Bush and the Republicans, I believe Americans are again realizing not just the benefit but the necessity for divided government to keep both sides “honest”. Government needs a bit of competition too. And if Democrats ram health care reform legislation through, whether with our without Republican support, they’re most likely to see such “competition” become reality in 2010.