Posted on 18 September 2009.
The healthcare reform agenda will have major implications for the ever-aging Baby Boomer populous.
Healthcare reform. (Vomit.)
The phrase has lost none of its political salience since Bill Clinton first tried it out in 1993, with disastrous consequences thanks to the obstructionist “Christian Coalition” led by then-Speaker Newt Gingrich. With this in mind, the Republicans in Congress, most notably Eric Cantor, Mitch McConnell, and suddenly Joe “You Lie!” Wilson, have been doing their political darndest to stop the Democrats from passing any kind of meaningful bill. Recently Max Baucus, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, felt the brunt of this, as he passed a “bipartisan” bill that has taken nothing but criticism from progressives and yielded no Republican support. Part of the frustration on the part of Democrats comes from the blurred lines between the Christian Right and the establishment Republican Party. Even as RNC Chair Michael Steele attempts to distance the Party from far-right positions shouted by protesters at town-hall meetings, Michelle Bachmann and Joe Wilson make his job harder by embracing the views of the “birthers,” “deathers,” “tenthers,” and everyone in between.
This canyon between the right and the GOP needs to get smaller, not bigger, if they truly want to broaden the base in 2010 and beyond. Let me play the part of Republican strategist for a bit here. The party leadership and 2010 candidates are making a calculation, whether conscious or not, that preventing the President from furthering his agenda in the healthcare arena will be politically beneficial to their side. Because they missed the boat on early negotiations, and have failed to provide an alternative that meets even the most basic consensus goals of any meaningful bill, they have created a zero-sum game where any success for their side necessarily means total failure of any reform efforts.
This is a suicidal move.
Nancy Pelosi is digging her feet in on the public option, even as President Obama hits his stride on a series of campaign-style rallies on college campuses and in major cities that yield thousands of supporters in enthusiastic attendance. The complacency of OFA on this front that I and so many others railed against for the last few weeks seems to have evaporated into a low-pressure front of anger and frustration that is storming across the country, building huge progressive support for the Democrats’ agenda with it. As the country gradually becomes more educated on the issue, the right looks cynical at best and ignorantly masochistic at worst. It is incredibly easy at this point for the coalition of elected representatives, NGOs, and volunteers to get on the same message, and push it consistently to all outlets: health insurance companies are unaccountable and need to be reined in.
I will stake my political-handicapping reputation on the following: the House and Senate will come to consensus by the end of the year on a meaningful healthcare bill. Scattered by the newly-united Democratic Party and worn down by months of constituents’ frustrations, the GOP will continue to be a disorganized political entity with no real contributions to the national dialogue on the issue, and we will enter 2010 with perhaps a little too much optimism regarding Democratic gains in the midterm elections. Give or take a couple scandals, the Democrats will lose seats in 2010 – this is inevitable given the absence of a candidate with as massive the coattails as Obama had in 2008, which will lead to weak turnout in progressive areas. However, the talent base that OFA built and is continuing to accumulate will turn into an army of organizing power for those candidates smart enough to cash in.
There are legitimate conservative criticisms of the healthcare reform legislation currently on the table, but the GOP either doesn’t see them or is unwilling to argue them. Any rational messaging strategy is going to need to emerge by the end of the year, or the ridiculous incoherent mess that they are will continue until the leadership whips them into submission. Stay classy though, Republicans.