If you’ve been following the Health Care Bill post-passage aftermath, you will generally hear one of these refrains coming from the Republican Party and their supporters:
1 – “This will cause the Democrats to get crushed in the November elections”
2 – “We’re going to repeal this bill.”
3 – “The people are angry about this.”
4 – “Several states are suing the federal government to block its implementation.”
I’ve heard a number of conservative “voices on the street” uttering the first claim, in particular, so I wanted to take some time to examine what I have termed, “The November Myth.” Let’s examine how three political demographic groups are likely to respond to the issues, followed by likely voting outcomes.
LIBERALS: Anyone on the far-to-moderate left is likely to see the passage of the Health Care Bill as a success. Perhaps not what they would deem a “full, unqualified” success, but victory over what they would view as GOP obstructionism, and a corrupt Health Insurance Industry. They are, of course, not going to support repeal of the legislation, nor lawsuits in their states to block its provisions. In other words…their reactions are just about exactly what one would expect them to be.
MODERATES: This is the segment of the population that BOTH extremes (far left and far right) understand the least…and which both sides often mistakenly believe agrees with them. Liberals assume that political events that stir their anger or their joy, provoke the same emotional response in moderates…and somewhat comically, conservatives are making the exact same assumptions about moderates: “If we are angry, they must be, too.“ They are most often, both TOTALLY mistaken. Moderates are easily fatigued by partisan bickering, generally stick to mainstream news from the major networks (if they even watch it at all), and if there is one thing unlikely to motivate them…it’s ideological and political causes. Extreme beliefs on either side of the fence tend to either turn them off, or even scare them outright. They are already adjusting to the bill: this group tends to set aside any complaints over a piece of legislation the moment it passes…and they quickly develop a sort of acceptance: “Well, it’s now law, so I guess we have to learn to live with it.“ A Gallop/USA Today poll shows that the minute the bill passed…its popularity started rising. What a difference a day makes. As the year progresses, and the legislation’s initial offerings affect these people’s lives, you’ll find them even more unwilling to consider repealing the bill. It’s a simple principle: once someone has been given a benefit (a tax credit, a reduced price, a service) they don’t want you to take it away. Plus – after watching the debate over health care tie up Congress for a year…moderates will not like the idea of even more time being spent in a protracted battle to repeal it, when legislators could be working on other issues that polls show they care more about (ie. the economy, jobs, Iraq/Afghanistan). Suing the federal government over the bill…will similarly look like a giant, futile waste of time and taxpayer money in moderate voters’ eyes. They will be told three things:
1 - The lawsuits will fail since states can opt out of the mandate.
2 – That the mandate was originally a Republican idea (Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, along with 19 other GOP Senators, sponsored a bill in 1993 advocating the mandate…now they call it “totalitarianism”)
3 – That they better HOPE the suits fail, because if they succeed it might threaten Medicare and Social Security.
These points will effectively end support for that particular strategy among moderates…game, set, match. In short – they are likely unimpressed by this bill…over the next year will likely enjoy at least one of its benefits, which they won’t want to give up…and they neither think it is the “great hope” that the Democrats claim, nor the “great evil” purported by Republicans, which means they are unlikely to vote solely based on this issue.
CONSERVATIVES: Here is where some surprises reside. Like their counterparts on the far left, the supporters on the far right are fairly predictable. They will support any and all arguments against the bill. They will favor its repeal, they will support lawsuits against it. Moderate Republicans…are a bit more complicated. Many of these individuals chose to simply “sit out” the last election over the last GOP president and the current GOP leadership. Many, once the benefits of the bill kick in, will not openly and actively support its repeal. This is simply human nature. Anybody who no longer suffers because of the Medicare prescription “donut hole“…anyone whose child gets to stay on their insurance until age 26…anyone who finally gets insurance despite their pre-existing condition…anyone who finds out they no longer have to pay a co-pay or deductible for preventative services…these people will (quietly) not support repeal. I’m not saying they’ll suddenly start voting for Democrats…I’m saying that a campaign war cry of “repeal the bill” will not motivate them to show up at the polls. These moderates are also increasingly not fond of being associated with Tea Party demonstrators and other far right extremists. To them, lawsuits against the federal government sound like an expensive waste of time…and obstructionist measures like invoking an obscure Senate rule to stop all work at 2pm are starting to make them a little bit embarrassed.
So…what can we expect come November?
- ADVANTAGES: Passed the Health Care Bill. By November, many will have benefitted from it. Can claim some moderate economic successes. Credit Card Reform Bill has a couple of laudable measures. Have generally given off the appearance of attempting to be reasonable, even bipartisan, which will appeal to moderates. No major blunders.
- DISADVANTAGES: Apathy…after nearly every successfully presidential election, a party can expect its voters to “sleep in” during the mid-term voting…and Democratic voters have been traditionally bad about showing up ANYWAY. Promised much that has not come to pass: Iraq pullout, Gitmo closure, improved situation in Afghanistan, regulating Wall Street. Economy and jobs still struggling…and there are plenty of Americans who WILL hold it against a President and Congress for not “fixing everything” in two years. Activists liberals have cooled off, since progressive agendas have been largely ignored (ie. gay rights, environmental issues, prosecuting those responsible for torture). Incumbency: Often in poor economic times, incumbents face tougher re-election bids (due to increased “vote all of ‘em out” mentality), and since there are more Democratic incumbents…fewer “gimme” elections for Dems.
- WHO WILL VOTE FOR THEM: “Still-hopeful liberals” across the spectrum, ironically motivated more out of fear of all the extreme talk from the right-wing, than by anything said or done by the Democrats. Some moderates, either happy with what small progress has been made so far, or simply turned off by the actions of the far-right and the current GOP leadership.
- ADVANTAGES: Economy still stinks. Many Obama promises not yet fulfilled. Base is energized and likely to turn out at the voting booths.
- DISADVANTAGES: They can’t really point to anything they’ve accomplished…and the one thing they tried to block (Health Care), they failed to do so. AND…since they contributed nothing to Health Care Reform…they’ll have real trouble trying to take credit for any of it. Similarly, any attempts to take credit for improvements in their states tied to stimulus funds will be highlighted as political/ideological hypocrisy. Plus, energizing their base came with a steep cost…it also energized some liberals (fear is a motivator powerful enough to overcome considerable apathy and disenchantment), and has turned off minority and moderate voters. You’d think they’d have learned from the last election, that it’s not worth it, because you cannot win without strong support from moderate and independent voters. Just today, they failed to distance themselves from the “lunatic fringe” and in doing so, pushed moderates even further out of reach. In responding to the latest violent and racist attacks from conservative supporters…the GOP essentially said, “We’re against this violence…but it happened because people are angry.“ Representative Boehner: first of all, you cannot condemn violent acts and in the same breath try to justify them. Secondly…see below for my comment about your premise that “the American people are angry.”
- WHO WILL VOTE FOR THEM: Strong number among the far right, good numbers but less than expected from moderate conservatives, disappointing numbers from moderate sectors.
NET OUTCOME: The Democrats will likely lose a few seats in both houses, but not nearly what one would normally expect in the first mid-term election following a successful bid for the Presidency. Neither party will have a dominant majority in either house of Congress.
This real-world analysis clearly contradicts the claims of the GOP Party, but that is because they are currently, completely absorbed in what I call, “Tinkerbell Syndrome:” That is to say, they seem to think that if they say something enough times, and enough of their supports clap their hands and believe it to be true…it BECOMES true. They tell us “Americans overwhelming disapproved of this bill,” and that “Americans have spoken and they are angry,” and that the Democrats’ efforts violate the “will of the American people,” and they tell us that all these angry people are going to turn out at the polls in November and vote out all the Democrats. Problem is: These statements are contradicted by most polls, statistics, studies…and any other available real-world evidence. And these statements effectively ignore LAST NOVEMBER when a majority of the American people did indeed display the “will of the American people” in electing Barack Obama and a Democratic majority in both houses. In truth, the GOP is not in a position to tell us what “the American people” think at all. Their current and prolonged use of tactics appealing only to the far-right conservative base, GUARANTEES that they are unable to represent anything but a rapidly shrinking segment of the American population.