A quick search of the Interwebs for the term "political suicide" will return a significant number of stories on the pending Democrat-pushed healthcare "reform" legislation and their seemingly inexplicable political death spiral. Virtually every poll says that the public rejects the bills in the Senate and House, Barack Obama's popularity is tanking, and virtually no one on the Right OR the Left is happy with them. So the natural question is: Why are the Democrats pushing this?
The characterization of the Democrats' actions as "political suicide" is somewhat inaccurate. It would be more apt to call it "political hari-kari", as the Democrats believe that passing this legislation is the honorable thing to do. They believe that this is the political equivalent to Grandma's spoonfull of castor oil - something that we don't want but they're doing because it's good for us. This week, in an article titled "Why Democrats push health care, even if it kills them," Byron York quoted a Democrat strategist:
"Because they think they know what's best for the public," the strategist said. "They think the facts are being distorted and the public's being told a story that is not entirely true, and that they are in Congress to be leaders. And they are going to make the decision because Goddammit, it's good for the public."
Of course, going forward has turned out to be harder than many Democrats thought. And now, with various proposals lying wrecked along the road, the true believers are practicing what the strategist calls "principled damage control."
The Dems believe that once healthcare
fascism socialization rationing reform is passed, we'll come to love it, just as we have with Social Security and Medicare. We'll figure out that it really WAS good for us. And incredibly, they believe that not only will it be good for us, but it will win them seats in 2010.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has been telling Democrats a win on the health issue will reverse the slide in public opinion, just as passage of another controversial proposal, the North American Free Trade Agreement, lifted President Bill Clinton in the polls.
The apparent success by Senate Democrats this weekend in securing the necessary votes to pass a sweeping overhaul of health care before Christmas will offset setbacks on climate change and financial industry regulation, Democrats say.
"The reality, I think, will trump poll numbers in the dead of winter as this debate is going on," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
"We're governing through difficult times," he said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I think we're going to be in a better place" when the midterm elections arrive.
Sean Trende, writing for Politico, believes that the Democrats are motivated by the desire to be "historic":
I suspect that most of the left intuits this. That's why the other argument you'll see – and this is especially true of the Administration and the leadership – is that the Democrats should pass this bill because they have a chance to make history: Do something the Democrats have wanted since the Truman Administration. President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid believe that if they pass this bill, regardless of what else happens to them, they'll have earned a place in the Democrats' Pantheon of Great Leaders. These Democrats see universal coverage as their Holy Grail (never mind that the bill actually leaves behind millions of uninsured), it's within reach, and they really don't care what sort of bill they have to pass to get it. They'll even let the press start describing them, with reason, as allies of Big Pharma to achieve the win. The train is simply running out of control at this point, and all Pelosi can do is stand at the front and repeat increasingly out-of-touch talking points about the American people wanting them to enact this bill and standing up to the insurance industry.
Bucking public opinion is not a strategy that is unique to the Democrats. Before President Bush and his team successfully executed the surge strategy in Iraq, the GOP also went against some significant public resistance against their Iraq policies. Like the Democrats, the Bush administration and the GOP rejected public pressure and forged on with the (correct, IMHO) opinion that they were doing the right thing. In the end, even though the Bush administration Iraq policy was successful, the GOP still paid the price in electoral losses in 2006 and 2008. This is likely to occur again with the Democrats.
The Democrats in Congress don't seem worried about this. Even Barack Obama himself admits that Congress is on the "precipice" (when I read that quote, I was reminded of the line from "The Princess Bride" where Inigo Montoya tells Vizzini "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.") but he presses on nonetheless. It seems, however, that there some on the Left, outside the insulated walls of the Capitol, who do understand the peril in which the Democrats have placed themselves. From OpenLeft.com (I won't link them - you can find the article by searching for the title "This Health Reform Bill Is Political Suicide"):
And, frankly, why should the public ever again listen to anyone left of John McCain after this, if this is what happens when Democrats get power? It is just wrong to use that power to order everyone to shell out a huge amount of money - while Wall Street hands out billions of taxpayer dollars as bonuses. They will be portrayed as confirming what the right has been saying about "liberals" they use the power of the state to order people to follow elitist schemes - which is exactly what this is, a scheme where elite people with power decide what is good for the rest of us - mandates are important because you can't cover pre-existing without them, etc. THIS is where a President is supposed to be a leader come in and insist on broader guidelines with a veto threat.
I'm glad the Left has figured this out. But their leadership apparently has not. Even Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership believes that it's OK to lose some seats for The Cause, despite Emanuel and Axelrod's claims to the contrary.
So the Democrats continue on course to draw their samurai swords and "die with honor". While I'm OK to see them do this (electorally and politically, of course), I fear that the price of seeing them go down will be higher than the United States of America can handle.
(and no, I didn't see mbecker908's diary before writing this... :-) )