The accepted wisdom is that passing the amended Democratic health care bill will be an albatross around the necks of the party as it moves forward into the fall mid-term elections and beyond. Republicans gleefully point to polls which suggest they will benefit from the electorate’s opposition to the bill and their own improved prospects for picking up seats in both the United States Senate and the House.
In the short term they may be right, but it’s not at all clear that health care will play much of a role in any losses sustained by the Democrats in the fall except with the GOP’s own base and some disaffected independents. The electorate is generally grumpy with the state of the economy, primarily unemployment, and the size of the deficit. The fact that the Democrats deserve credit rather than electoral punishment for the steps both the administration and Congress have taken to prevent a deeper recession, and to stimulate the economy through fiscal measures that were necessary but inevitably resulted in a higher deficit is, unfortunately, lost on many voters.
In the longer term, however, I am convinced that as Americans come to actually learn what’s in the health bill and see the benefits not only to the uninsured but to those who already have insurance or Medicare (the most fervent opponents to the bill), they will come to embrace it as they did Medicare and Social Security – two other additions to the social safety net that most congressional Republicans opposed.
I also think it’s why the GOP has mounted such a bitter opposition to the bill. If they believed their own rhetoric one would think they would welcome passage of a bill which, according to every Fox News right-wing mouthpiece and Republican politician who’s given an opportunity to blab on-air, will mean Democratic Armageddon. But they don’t and the reason may be that they fear that it will be a long term boost to both Obama and Democrats in general for the 2012 elections, and to their own detriment.
The misinformation and sound-bites have served the right well in what has been less a debate than a frenzy of vitriol and misleading talking points by the GOP and its Fox News cheerleaders. Oh, and let’s not forget the Tea Baggers.
However, once the bill passes this campaign of obfuscation and misrepresentation will be much harder to sustain effectively, and the beneficial elements of the bill will start to speak for themselves. In this situation Democrats will, in time, gain a strong advantage as the party of can-do and of positive, pro-active policy prescriptions in contrast to the GOP as the party of “NO-can-do.”
If Democrats can find the courage and the will to pass health care insurance reform, whether through parliamentary maneuvers or a straight vote, not only will the country have much reason to be thankful but also, I believe, the Democratic Party.