It’s now up to Obama and the Democrats - Macleans.ca
 

It’s now up to Obama and the Democrats


 

If there is a golden rule when you’re faced with adversity in politics, it is this: ‘When in doubt, follow your beliefs and principles.’ Barack Obama was elected with a majority vote (53%) and the most votes ever cast for a president. His party, the Democrats, controls the Senate with a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats and a 78-seat edge in the House of Representatives.

The promise to reform healthcare was not made on a whim or with the intent to garner a few votes in selected electoral districts. It was the product of an extensive debate that has taken various forms since the beginning of the last century when Theodore Roosevelt put universal healthcare in his electoral platform back in the 1912. Some progressive legislation, including Medicare and Medicaid, were eventually enacted. But the all-out effort at comprehensive reform failed spectacularly under the Clinton Administration in 1993. Obama was elected to that deliver comprehensive reform and expectations are high. Failure to do so would have disastrous consequences for the President and his party.

The Republicans say that they too want healthcare reform, but not a government takeover of its delivery mechanisms. From a strictly fiscal point of view, the GOP has defended some interesting ideas. However, they have yet to put forward a comprehensive alternative to the Democrats’ plan. Meanwhile, the still-dicey economic climate has amplified fears over the impact greater government involvement in healthcare could have on the government’s bottom line, as have the billions spent on stimulus and bailouts throughout last winter. The new accounting rules used by Congress, which have added the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to the operational budget, have also caused estimates of the deficit and long term debt to grow by astronomical amounts. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that various versions of the bills before the House of Representatives would add one trillion to the deficit within 10 years—and they still would not reach their goal of universal coverage.  Given all this, the Republicans now believe they have the political cover for opposing what they have begun labeling as Obamacare.

With the town hall tour in full effect, organized interventions by boisterous groups have taken to loosely interpreting and, in some cases, grossly distorting the various reform initiatives. The talk of “death panels” by Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich portray reform as more hazardous than the status quo. Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, a moderate Republican, was originally seen as the only hope for a bipartisan solution, but he soon countered that perception by engaging in some fear-mongering of his own. Organized lobbies and bogus think tanks like the Lewin Group, which is wholly owned by one of the country’s largest insurers, were feeding Republican spokespersons with talking points to reinforce the case against any reform proposal coming from the Obama White House. The impact of all this in the polls is reflected in a marked decrease in support for the Obama plan and this has started to erode his overall approval numbers. A president faced with declining popularity soon sees a weakening of the so-called bully pulpit.

The Democrats have had problems of their own, as the split between the liberal, progressive wing and the conservative Blue Dog coalition over a public option and controlling costs has further complicated Obama’s ability to build a coalition. Many observers initially applauded Obama’s strategy of letting Congress deliver a proposal for him to sign. But selling healthcare reform on generalities with confusion about the specifics is a recipe for conflict and polarization if the other side has no serious alternative to present for debate. The president seemed intent on letting the conversation take place while he was building support for his initiative among the American Medical Association, the pharmaceutical industry, unions, inter-faith groups, AARP among others. He seemed aloof with respect to the legislators in the early stages. And though he eventually appeared to be more engaged, the problem is that the fault lines have become more apparent.

Recent reports suggest the Democrats may have given up on a bipartisan solution since the principal Republican spokespersons have echoed, in admittedly softer terms, the anti-reform rants of Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, and Bill O’Reilly. No moderate Republican would dare take on this gallery of right-wing screamers. Doing so could compromise their funding from the anti-reform lobby and place them in a primary challenge come 2010. So the Democrats’ appear focused on reconciling the two wings of their party. It is not the ideal solution for a matter as personal and as far-reaching as healthcare. But it says a lot about the state of the GOP and the inability of US politicians from both parties to rise above the calculation of political advantage.

It is becoming increasingly certain that only a united Democratic party can carry the day. The richest nation in the world must make sure that all its citizens have access to healthcare and that some of the abhorrent practices of private healthcare insurers be eliminated. These should be the goals of this particular reform effort. For that to happen, compromise and leadership must now prevail on the government side. Liberals inside the Democratic party must find common ground with the Blue Dogs, and the latter must not abandon their electoral platform in the face of organized opposition. Voters may disagree with their representatives on occasion, but they will respect them if they hold to their principles and do what they promised when they were running for office. The same applies to Obama. As Harry Truman once said, “the buck stops here,” meaning the Democrats will be looking to the president for leadership. Obama must draw a line in the sand and get his party onside. Anything less will compromise his presidency.


 

It’s now up to Obama and the Democrats

  1. if the first sentence was true, Harper would be leading an opposition of approximately 55 seats right now. The golden rule up here seems to be give the people what they want.

    • I understand but that is why Obama has raised expectations. Americans want someting new and different . Harper will never get a majority and you can't compare US with Canada. Reagan , truman stood on principle .

  2. I agree that having raised the issue and expectations, not to deliver on health care will lead to a crippling of Obama's ability to push the agenda. (this is of course, compounded by the US deficit) He is looking more and more like a one-time president. However, if he was to transform US health care and stop the 3rd world level treatment of its poorest citizens in that term he would be seen as one of the most important.

    I think the challenge for Obama is that he recognized the societal problem profoundly, understood the ethical urgency and probably even had some ideas for the ultimate goal. I do not get the sense that he ever developed an elegant (or even inelegant) transformation process that could be used to change the delivery of US health care. Now he is in a very tough spot, since Congress will not deliver that process, he needs to rapidly develop his own and push. I am not optimistic.

  3. In droves ..not supporting .Come on jolyon. It is far from that . obama should have specifics to defend , I agree. parisella was right to say his message is not simple enough. Also he should crunch his guys as this blog is suggesting .
    Forget the Republicans . They will say no to anything .
    What i have trouble with you right wingers is not a reasonable debate with you but the false scare tactics , the Hitler posters and the guns at rallies. the growth of the Viper militia is scary and the birther movement is another word for racism . And you know it . Conservatives need to condemn this crap and you may find more supporters .

  4. Choice between hope and manipulated fear.

    To be sure, time does not fix the endless greed, energy depletion. Considering the current fuel price is hovering around $60 to $70 per barrel in this economy, supposedly it might be equivalent to the peak price last year while the similar runaway premiums keep on rising, heading for financial ruin. And it is firmly believed if people fail to build a bridge for the next generations, the current generation, too, can not avoid falling off the cliff, as the world-wide overpopulation & immense consumption in conventional energy and the other resources no longer allows waste.

    As usual, when the positive effects including job creation and savings generated by investments are left out of the equation, fear and scare are left alone. Today choice between hope and manipulated fear lies with people's will.

  5. Barack Obama was elected with a majority vote (53%) and the most votes ever cast for a president.

    Given population growth, the latter has repeatedly occurred in something like 80% of presidential elections in US history, and a 53% popular majority doesn't even make the top ten majorities or margins of victory; neither are particularly indicative of massive popularity or success. Try harder, please. I know you're infatuated with the man, but have some professional dignity and do a little basic research, before leading with breathless statements like that.

  6. Barack Obama was elected with a majority vote (53%) and the most votes ever cast for a president.

    Given population growth, the latter has repeatedly occurred in something like 80% of presidential elections in US history, and a 53% popular majority doesn't even make the top ten majorities or margins of victory; neither are particularly indicative of massive popularity or success. I know you're infatuated with the man, but do a little basic research, before leading with breathless statements like that as though they're at all meaningful.

    • OK, how about "The 9.5 million vote gap between Obama and McCain is the largest vote gap in favour of a Democrat over a Republican since Johnson beat Goldwater in 1968 and is over one million votes larger than the separation between Regan and Carter in 1980."

      I get your point about Obama's win not being the biggest deal ever, but on the other side there are plenty of conservatives who still refer to it as a "close" election, which is utter nonsense.

      Obviously the percentage gap is closer, but Regan beating Carter by 8.4 million votes with 50.7% of votes cast is considered a pretty huge historic win, so surely Obama deserves some credit for beating McCain by over 9.5 million votes with 53% of the votes cast.

      • What happens is that people look at overall vote totals and not the Electoral College. For example, Bush/Kerry in '04 which Bush won by something like 3 million votes but if 60,000 (somewhere around there, don't recall exact number) people in Ohio changed their vote to Kerry from Bush, Kerry would have been president. Do you consider that to be close election or not?

        • Well, it all depends. (lol)

          Certainly the popular vote is somewhat meaningless in the EC system, for sure, so an election can seem much closer, or much less close, than it actually is in a practical EC sense (I mean, the other obvious example being Al Gore who "won" by over 540,000 votes without actually winning). So, my answer to your question as to what I'd consider "close" would have to be "That depends" I'm afraid.

          However, in this context, we're talking about the relative "closeness" of the election in terms of Obama's popularity and popular mandate are we not? So, in terms of "popularity" and "democratic mandate" (in a kind of "philosophical sense") I'd say vote totals and differentials may be more meaningful than the EC.

          Of course, there's also the fact that Obama did MUCH better in the Electoral College vote than in the popular vote. Sure, he only got 53% of the popular vote, but he got over 67% of the Electoral College vote (365-173). So you're right, in that sense the 2008 election wasn't really close at all.

      • Sorry, that should say Johnson beating Goldwater in 1960, not '68 of course!

        Also, while 53% of the vote isn't historic in the history of the Republic, it is the highest percentage won by a Democrat since, again, Lyndon Johnson in 1960. No Democrat received a higher percentage of the vote tha Obama in my lifetime, and only two others have done better than Obama since before the Civil War.

        Besides Johnson, FDR is the only other Democrat to have received more than 53% of the vote in the 20th Century, and only one other Democrat, Andrew Jackson has ever received more than 53% of the vote (he last did that in 1832, and you'll excuse me if I think maybe once we're back to pre-Civil War times the comparison's just silly).

        So, while a 53% majority may not make the top ten all-time list, it puts Obama fourth on the all-time list for Democrats, third on the list of Democrats since 1900, second on the list of Democrats since the end of WWII, and first on the list of Democrats since 1960.

        That's not so bad.

        • It's certainly not bad, but it's not so dramatic as to be significant to the point Parisella is attempting to make. I call that sloppy writing enabled by personal bias.

        • It's certainly not bad, but it's not so dramatic as to be significant to the point Parisella is attempting to make. I call that a sloppy lede enabled by personal bias.

        • Grrr, 1964.

          There, 1964.

      • Reagan 1984: 59%, 16.8m vote margin.
        Nixon 1972: 61%, 17.9m vote margin.
        LBJ 1964: 61%, 17.9m vote margin.

        It's either just irrelevant, or runs counter to the premise of the story, is my point. Parisella mentioned it only as part of the narrative he's evidently internalized about Obama's unprecedented personal popularity – which is something not exactly reflected in the historical record.

      • Reagan 1984: 59%, 16.8m vote margin, won most votes ever to that point.
        Nixon 1972: 61%, 17.9m vote margin, won most votes ever to that point.
        LBJ 1964: 61%, 17.9m vote margin, won most votes ever to that point.

        It's either just irrelevant, or runs counter to the premise of the story, is my point. Parisella mentioned 53% and largest total to date only as part of the narrative he's evidently internalized about Obama's unprecedented personal popularity – which is something not exactly reflected in the historical record.

        • avr and jolyon are now forgetting how Bush stole it in 2000. And now with Ridge demonstarting that they scared people in 2004,it is no wonder conservatives throw mud to have forget this . The mess they left-deregulation leading to greed and near financial disater , 2 badly managed wars and one unnescessary , highest deficits ever under Bush and reagan, status quo on health care ,corruption with the lobbbiests , ethics scanadls with Delay-Gingrich-Armey -Abramoff, sex scandals with sanford-Vitter-Ensign -Craig-and the guy in Florida, watergate , cheney with Plaine-haliburton -Blackwater, Gonzalez with torture …..I could on and on . avr and jolyon prefer to argue over a percentage point!Very little about ONE health care idea to improve on the status quo .Just Obama bashing,day after day . I forgot Fox News lies and limbaugh . Outside of that , you conservatives have done a fabulous job . And Obama should not complain about all the good you left him . Get a life !

        • Again though, there's a reason Johnson is the only Democrat you cite.

          LBJ in '64 is the only Democrat since WWII to get over Obama's 53% and only two other Dems (Andrew Jackson and FDR) have EVER done better (and again, I don't think Jackson's 1832 win is exactly relevant today!). Republicans have done better in the Presidential race basically throughout the history of the Republic, so while 53% isn't big in one sense, it's pretty darned impressive for a Democrat.

          Also, as I mentioned, it's not just that Obama's total of 69.5 million votes (over 7 million more votes than the previous record set just 4 years earlier) is impressive (and sure, as you say, more people equals more votes, so that record has frequently gone up) it's that the difference of 9.5 million votes between him and McCain is the largest difference between any two candidates since the 1984 landslide by Regan that you mention (and, I'll mention again, the largest vote differential by a Democrat since Johnson in 1964).

          So, again, point taken, but as you've listed LBJ, Nixon and Regan as the big winners from the 60s, 70s and 80s, I'd just point out that no Presidential Candidate has had a higher vote total or vote differential than Obama since that Regan win, and that was quarter of a century ago. Was Obama's popular win Reaganesque? Of course not. However, it's pretty hard to argue that it's not the best popular performance SINCE Regan, and arguably the best Democratic popular performance in 45 years.

          That's not insignificant.

          Oh, and did I mention that Obama's the black guy? Not for nothin', but I just think it's crazy that arguably the most successful (in a pop. vote sense) Democratic Presidential Candidate of my lifetime is a black man!

  7. Bottomline: The Conservatives have a done a great job of convincing the public through deception and far-fetched interpretations that this bill will likely lead to their being put down by government officials as if they were rabid dogs. Obama has not done a good enough of job of selling the bill and exposing the Conservatives as liars. I'm also constantly surprised that they bring up Canada and Great Britain as examples of how universal healthcare has failed. I had to have a procedure down in Boston as the hospital in Canada did not have the necessary equipment. I didn't pay for a cent of it. I wish Democrats would bring up stories like that to counter thefabricated refusals to give people over 60 hip replacements. ( last year alone, 63% of hip replacements were done on people 65 and older)

  8. Equation !

    $1.042trillion (cost of reform) + $245bn (cost to reflect annual pay raise of docs) = $1.287bn (actual cost of reform).

    $583bn (the revenue package) + $80bn (doughnut hole) + $155bn (savings from hospitals) + $167bn (ending subsidies for insurers) + $277bn (ending medical fraud, a minimum of 3%) = $1.257trillion + the reduced tax on the wealthiest = why not ? (except for magic pill, an outcome-based payment reform & IT effects and so forth)

    In relation with medical fraud, please visit http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?stor… you will be stunned ! Thankfully, in May 2009, the Obama administration announced a new task force made up of officials from the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to work on health care fraud.

    Thank You !

  9. Equation !

    $1.042trillion (cost of reform) + $245bn (cost to reflect annual pay raise of docs) = $1.287bn (actual cost of reform).

    $583bn (the revenue package) + $80bn (doughnut hole) + $155bn (savings from hospitals) + $167bn (ending subsidies for insurers) + $277bn (ending medical fraud, a minimum of 3%) = $1.257trillion + the reduced tax on the wealthiest = why not ? (except for magic pill, an outcome-based payment reform & IT effects and so forth)

    In relation with medical fraud, please visit http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?stor… you will be stunned ! Thankfully, in May 2009, the Obama administration announced a new task force made up of officials from the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services to work on health care fraud.

    Thank You !

  10. Lord Kitchener and GSB are typical liberals. They conveniently forget to mention that Bush won fair and square . The Supreme Court is still legitimate purveyor of the rule of law. And Bush won clearly in 2004 !
    Clinton and kennedy had their skeletons .
    Cheney was a strong Vice President who kept America safe after 9-11. Better than Clinton and Lewinsky .

    • Well, Cheney's was/is nuts, so on that we'll have to disagree, but I most certainly never said anything about Bush not winning fair and square. One can argue about whether or not what the Supreme Court did was correct, but it was their call to make, so of course Bush won "fair and square" in that sense.

      The only mention I even made of Bush v. Gore was in the context of responding to jolyon's question about what I would consider a "close" election. I was just pointing out that 2000 was an example of an extremely close election. If that makes me some sort of biased liberal, the "conservatives" clearly have lost all touch with reality. (Of course, it doesn't, so they probably haven't, with the possible exception of DeeDeeBama).

  11. Lord Kitchener :
    thank you for responding in a calm fashion .
    i think history will support me on Cheney and his memoirs will be worth the read. So time will tell on that difference of opinion.
    You put `fair and square` in quotes .Why?
    Clearly if you support Obama on health care , you are a biased liberal . Add Blue dogs and republicans and Obama is in a miniority.

    • I put "fair and square" in quotes because I was quoting you.

      As for supporting Obama on health care, I'm Canadian, so I don't really much care what kind of health care system the Americans have, frankly. I tend to think Obama's probably more correct in the argument than his critics (though he's less well armed, so we'll see who wins) but I don't really see myself as "supporting" him one way or the other, regardless of whether or not I tend to agree with him.

      That said, if someone up here starts to argue that we should ditch our system (which isn't perfect) for the current American one, I'll raise holy Hell.

  12. Hey Canada! Kindly stick to f-ing up your own country and leave ours be.

    You self-righteously complain endlessly about "Big Brother," but like some whiny stalker, you just can't quit following us around – now can you?

    • I understand but you guys are f-ing up your own country . So we Canadian conservatives intend to help you make it right . Yeah ,RIGHT in more ways than you know .Don`t listen to our liberals.

  13. Barack Obama was elected with a majority vote (53%) and the most votes ever cast for a president

    Compare and contrast.

    -McCain lost with the most votes in history for a loser
    -Obama's margin of victory (7.3%) was below average, 26th out of 47 presidential elections
    -Obama's margin of victory was just average for the last quarter century. 3 of the last 6 presidential elections were won with larger margins.

    • True, but again, Obama is only the 4th Democrat in history to get over 53% of the vote, and the first since LBJ in 1964 (the other two were FDR from 1932-44 and Andrew Jackson 1828-1832). True, Clinton beat Dole by a wider percentage margin (though fewer actual votes, and Clinton had less than 50%) but he's the only other Democrat in Obama's league.

      So, sure, plenty of other contenders have done better than Obama, but Presidential elections have historically been dominated by Republicans. That 53% may not seem too impressive to you, but it's the highest percentage total by a Democrat in 45 years, so that's not nothing.

      Of course, given the American system it's largely all moot, given that Obama won 67% of the Electoral College.

  14. they have yet to put forward a comprehensive alternative to the Democrats' plan

    Neither have the Democrats. There is no Democrat health plan. There are lots of competing ideas, to which the Democrats cannot agree, while at the same time Obama is trying to sell various bits and pieces, and trying to pass a bill before anyone can actually figure out what is in it.

    • You have a point scf . The blog is right to point out that Obama must be more specific and the Democrats have to realize that a step forward is better than no step at all. sSme applies to climate change . Transfomative change is the one that stands the test of time like Medicare.Reform of health insurance and covering uninsured in a progressive way might be the course.

  15. the problem with obama's reforms is that they go against what america has stood for since its inception: individual rights, personal freedoms and the right to have government stay away from private matters. this health care reform attempt will never happen.

    • good points but you are wrong .

      His reforms afford choice and the private insurance will still hold the bulk of the payment of delivery . care will still be mostly private . Medicare is government administered and is compulsory ,but his public option allows choice . If costs matter , maybe insurance could run a tighter ship and noy pay 7 or 8 figure salaries to their execs.medicare and Medicaid are government programs. Did you know that /