The Corner

Do They Really Believe in Obamacare?

The Congressional Insiders Poll in National Journal this week asks a cross-section of lawmakers a question that sheds some light on why Democratic party leaders continue to push Obamacare forward in such a politically reckless manner.

The insight: They honestly think its enactment would yield political dividends.

The National Journal asks: “If Congress enacts something close to President Obama’s health care reform plan, how would that affect your party in the midterm elections?”

The pool of respondents consists of 69 members of Congress: House and Senate; Republican and Democrat. They cover each party’s ideological waterfront — from Henry Waxman to Jim Cooper among Democrats and from Michele Bachmann to Olympia Snowe among Republicans. All ten Democratic senators in the pool voted for the Senate health-reform bill, of course, and all but six of the 59 Democratic House members did so. The members’ identities, moreover, are not linked to their responses.

Remarkably, 85 percent of the 44 Democrats who responded said passage of Obamacare would either help their party “a lot” (55 percent) or “a little” (32 percent). Almost all the explanations for why it would help are defensive and purely political in nature. In fact, only one response seems to come from the heart of a true believer who thinks the reforms will actually work. Among the political justifications:

“It’s getting something done, stupid.”

“It would regain a lot of the energy in our own base. Otherwise, we will be in deep trouble.”

“Democrats have to deliver. We are too far into this.”

“Passage means a Rose Garden signing ceremony and some immediate benefits. Failure to pass means incompetence despite our large majorities.”

The true believer, on the other hand, insists passage will help Democrats for more substantive reasons:

“If it passes, people see it’s not the end of the world and learn more about its benefits. The more they know about it, the more supportive they are.”

Every single Republican surveyed, in contrast, insists enactment will help the GOP to one extent or another, with 76 percent saying it would help “a lot” and the remaining 24 percent believing it would help “a little.”

Can we take these Democratic responses seriously, or are they just what we should expect from a cowering rank-and-file not wanting to incur the wrath of the speaker, the majority leader, and Rahm? Remember that, because this is essentially a private ballot, the respondents had every reason to be honest in their replies.

My guess is that most Democrats on the Hill are living in a parallel universe right now. They hear daily from an unrelenting Democratic base its support for whatever Team Obama wants. The cherry-picked poll results that dominate their political briefings are designed to reassure them that it’s okay to follow their leaders. (See the curious way Obama’s own pollster did this on Saturday’s Washington Post op-ed page.) They watch MSNBC, scour the liberal blogs, and read the New York Times editorial page. Most of all, they have faith. Faith that their young and charismatic president won’t let them down.

Their Republican colleagues, meanwhile, can’t believe what they see unfolding before their eyes. To them, passing a bill will prove much more damaging to Democrats in November than if they simply walked away from the health-reform table and focused on more important issues like job creation. As one Republican respondent told National Journal, the effort to pass Obamacare is nothing less than “an act of political suicide.” Another mused that if Obama care is enacted “the protests last summer will pale in comparison with the turnout next November.” The result, a third Republican predicted: “the Republicans will win the House, possibly by a wide margin.”

Has legislation of such magnitude ever provoked such wildly disparate assessments from the two national parties — not just in terms of its substance but also in what its enactment would mean politically?

All this is more evidence that the end game on Obamacare is nothing less than the legislative equivalent of total war, the sort of total war that visits Washington only once every few generations.

Most Popular

Culture

White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The White Ghetto

Editor's Note: In celebration of Kevin D. Williamson’s newest book, The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, National Review is republishing some of our favorites of his from the past ten years. This article originally appeared in the December 16, 2013, issue of National ... Read More
Health Care

The Puzzling Problem of Vaping

San Francisco -- A 29-story office building at 123 Mission Street illustrates the policy puzzles that fester because of these facts: For centuries, tobacco has been a widely used, legal consumer good that does serious and often lethal harm when used as it is intended to be used. And its harmfulness has been a ... Read More