The chart below, from JP Morgan’s Michael Cembalest, is making the rounds (a more complete explanation is here), and if there’s one chart that better explains the continued divisiveness of Obamacare in American life, I’ve yet to see it. Simply put, Obamacare was the most partisan piece of social legislation passed in the last 100 years.
Of course, as with all claims of divisiveness, it takes both sides to divide (after all, one side can always surrender), but we have reached a point where every single Republican is required by their constituents to demonstrate opposition to Obamacare, while the vast majority of Democrats are required by their constituents to demonstrate support. Given the importance of health care to each American, I can think of few better formulas for continued national division.
The Democrats are fond of pointing to presidential election results and saying — in a manner reminiscent of playground trash talk — “scoreboard.” They won the presidency. Conservatives lost. Move on. Yet as Jim Geraghty and others have noted, each Republican member of Congress has their own “scoreboard” to point to as well – their own election.
At its worst, this rhetoric is antithetical to a constitutional republic. Ramming through partisan national legislation that not only transforms the health-care system but also profoundly impacts the American economy and the fundamental constitutional rights of every American and then proclaiming, “We won” is more reminiscent of pure majoritarianism than the constitutional tradition of enumerated powers and checks and balances. Majoritarianism may be democracy, but it is not American democracy.
If that’s how the game is to be played, expect more partisan legislation, more scoreboard-pointing, and more legislative brinksmanship. As constitutional liberties and governmental restraint diminish, the stakes of each election rise immensely, and the soaring rhetoric of 2008 is replaced by absurd references to terrorists and suicide vests — with devastating consequences to our political culture.
Hope and change, indeed.