The clock is ticking for Democrats.
The health care reform bill has now become for all intents and purposes, as politically charged and attached to Democrats' success or failure going into 2010, just as Iraq and the oft befuddled and always erratic War on Terror was for Republicans. Much like our compromised ability to wage war while reconfiguring centuries of damaged theocratic lunacy plunging us deeper into debt, not to mention robbing the lives of thousands of our youth and alienating us from the rest of the world. This excessively dissected congressional fiasco resulting in hundreds of pages of gobbledygook and failed backroom deals clearly demonstrates how wrong political myopia can go.
As the opening decade of the new millennium comes to a close and the winds of change begin to shift once again, it is now the Democrats, after four years of a surge and then a significant shift in power, who find that the two-minute warning has sounded. They are not down, but the game is tied. They have moved the ball painstakingly to midfield, but seemed to have stalled in every possible way.
Their president has been underwhelming at best; choosing to conclave with the intelligentsia and weigh every option on foreign policy while allowing his party's legislators to juggle his most pressing agenda. A super majority in congress has not been super enough to combat what is clearly a mass filibuster on "All-Things Obama" from Republicans, who have maintained an impressive solidarity, unlike Democrats back when their sweeping victories in 2006 heralded an anti-war cry by voters but bore no anti-war votes against the questionable military surge. Less ideological than political, the Republican negation ploy has served to stall what is unquestionably the closest the United States has come to sweeping national health care reform, angering many liberals and frightening away Independents in droves.
This current Democratic majority has had no footing on key Democratic issues emerging from the overwhelming 2008 elections; climate change legislation, scaling back of military engagements, increasing tax burdens on the top one-percent, introducing primary social agendas, etc. These and other pertinent issues are not merely a reflection of the historic Obama presidential bid, but the tattered remnants of what looked a year ago like a new age in progressive politics.
Ironically, the morbid U.S. economy, which ushered in this proposed new age in record numbers, has reduced its subsequent governing to nothing more than a rash of failed bills and inter-party fisticuffs, leaving those in power with an increasingly limited window in which to press forward.
It is an accepted tenet of politics that in the first year of a new president's initial term there will be a backlash. And since there is only Ronald Reagan's popularity and political gravitas to compare to what Barack Obama accomplished in 2008, a fair comparison reminds us that the fortieth president of the United States went from a ridiculous seventy percent in mid-1981 to the mid-fifties by early '82, which then plummeted to the forties and cost the Republicans 27 seats in the House.
It was a crippling recession in '82 that felled The Gipper, a referendum on his supply-side economics, which many observers, and ultimately the voters decided was ill-conceived and too far-reaching. This time around the new Mr. Popular and his party will also go as the economy goes. Right now the fringe furor over the recovery/stimulus package, replete with mounds of government pork and sink holes of funding, which could be fairly argued wrested what looked like a complete collapse of the Western world back from the brink, polls as a bust.
Suddenly after nearly a decade of ignoring it, there is real fear about the national debt assuredly fueled by a steady rise in unemployment numbers that show no sign of subsiding before rising nearly into the teens. And just as the Afghan War has now shifted from the Bush problem to the Obama problem, so has the fallout of Bush's disastrous economy. After nearly three years in power on the Hill and one year in the oval office with the strongest mandate handed to a Democratic president in two generations, it is put-up or shut-up time.
The tell-tale sign that things are getting into the "cornered" stage is the always-predictable party split, seen two years ago when many fiscal conservatives began jumping ship on the Cultural Warriors inside the soon-to-be doomed Republican Party. The troubling Terry Schiavo case, coupled with more than a few incidents of weird a-moral behavior by previously pious congressmen and a feeling among many conservative pundits and intellectuals that denying evolution and using a fear of homosexuality and decaying school prayer arguments to gain political favor were losing moderates and consequently elections.
Now, as the calendar gets set to turn to a mid-term election year, Democrats fighting for their political lives are seeing less liberal rooting and more anti-big government outcry from constituents. All politics is local and survival in congress is paramount, turning votes that previously could be counted on for Speaker Pelosi and the left in a radical restructure of national health care into powder.
Moderates in the party are becoming more entrenched, emboldening Republicans, who wisely play a waiting game in the hopes that nothing is passed, which would spell complete failure for Obama and his party in the most crucial period of their time in power. This has led to at best a dilution of a serviceable health care bill and at worse a rejection of what will likely be its only chance at succeeding for many of our lifetimes. What was once an ideological imperative, however popular (and it still holds a solid majority in the voting public) or unpopular (there is equally a trenchant paranoia that a government-run plan will rob and pillage all that is held dear) has now devolved into a political cause celeb.
The Democrats simply have to get something passed, check that, anything passed. Meanwhile half have no idea what that would be or what it would mean, the other half don't care. The same can be said for their opponents, who continue to irresponsibly unleash one horror scenario after the other, much of it fiction, and all of it hyperbolic.
'Tis the season for rancorous debate and desperate measures, which will only lead to results come the autumn of 2010, when we the people get to weigh in.
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