Health care vote will doom democrats



Column by Wes Blevins

It took congressional Republicans 12 years to lose touch with the American electorate to the point voters were willing to relieve them of their majorities in both houses of Congress. In a classic case of “anything you can do, I can do better,” it has taken Democrats four years to do the same.

Late Sunday, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a profoundly unpopular health care reform package with no Republican votes by a 219-212 margin. A jubilant President Barack Obama later said, “We proved that this government — a government of the people and by the people — still works for the people.”

But wait a minute — if our government works for the people, as Obama said, then why would Democrats force a bill through Congress that the majority of Americans vehemently oppose?

In polls taken over the past two weeks, only one has shown a majority of respondents who favor reforming health care in the way the president and Democrats have proposed. In fact, the gap between those that disapprove of the bill over those who approve have ranged from 4 percent to 20 percent.

In case Democrats haven’t noticed, American voters are angry — angry over government inaction on unemployment, federal spending that remains out of control, bailouts to companies that continue to dole out millions in executive bonuses and members of Congress who remain more concerned with their own electoral futures and the welfare of their parties, rather than doing what is best for the nation and getting millions of laid-off Americans back on payrolls.

We have seen American frustration in the growing Tea Party movement, which emerged in the wake of the 2009 federal stimulus package and has continued to grow in the last year.

Democrats and their liberal allies are quick to paint Tea Partiers with a broad brush as members of the right-wing fringe, who still question the president’s citizenship and stockpile arsenals of arms and ammunition, hoping they might eventually get to use them against a Socialist takeover of American politics.

To be clear, I find many of the socially conservative elements of the Tea Party movement repugnant. Religion has no place in public schools, women should maintain the right to choose in matters related to their bodies and the generations that would cast gays aside as second-class citizens are, thankfully, coming to an end.

But where I do sympathize with the movement is in the genuine frustration that lawmakers just aren’t listening to the fiscal concerns of their constituents.

In this year’s State of the Union address, Obama promised to place job creation at the top of his list of priorities for the coming year.

What has he done since? Campaign tirelessly on behalf of the 10 percent of Americans who remain unemployed?

No. Instead, the president has done his tireless campaigning on behalf of the health care reform bill, going as far as canceling a planned trip to Asia to put some last-minute pressure on wavering Democrats.

And what have jobless Americans gotten in the meantime? A token jobs bill, signed on the eve of the health care vote that economists estimate will create 200,000 new jobs, out of 8.4 million within the past two years.

American anger has also been shown in a more concrete fashion earlier this year, when Republican Scott Brown won control of the Massachusetts U.S. Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy.

Democrats quickly blamed the inept campaign run by Brown’s opponent, Martha Coakley; but this race was not run in a political vacuum. In most years, a Democratic candidate could have waltzed to an easy victory in that race, but this isn’t most years.

The Massachusetts special election came after a year of vitriolic back-and-forth in Washington over health care, while unemployment continued to climb higher and higher and reductions in federal spending seemed nowhere in sight.

It is striking that nearly half of Massachusetts voters are registered as independents. In a national poll released about a week after the election, only 23 percent of independents favored Obama’s stance on health care. Those who disapproved more than doubled that figure, at 49 percent, with 37 percent saying Obama’s handling of the health care issue was “unacceptable.” On the overall economy, only 4 percent of independents rated Obama as “excellent,” while 20 percent fell into the “unacceptable” category.

Our own Sen. Mitch McConnell perhaps summed up the Massachusetts election results best: “There’s a reason the nation was focused on this race. The American people have made it abundantly clear that they’re more interested in shrinking unemployment than expanding government. They’re tired of bailouts. They’re tired of the government spending more than ever at a time when most people are spending less. And they don’t want the government taking over health care.”

This is what Democrats still don’t seem to understand. Obama was elected in a landslide, and the president and other Democrats made the mistake of assuming they had a mandate to go all out with their party’s platform, rather than taking in the reality that they won because there was no “R” beside their name.

Americans, by and large, don’t want most of the things Obama campaigned for. Government-regulated health care, classic Democratic tax-and-spend policies and the president’s version of federal stimulus remain largely unpopular with American voters, particularly among independents, who often determine the outcomes of elections.

A Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate, considered a long shot before Sunday’s vote, seems more and more likely with each passing month.

Take a good look at what is now most likely a lame duck Congress and know this: The last 30 years of American political history show the federal government does its best work when we have divided government. Thankfully, Democrats have been far better at getting us there than Republicans have proven to be.