Democrats look different these days. They look thinner.
Last week, they lost their sixtieth vote in the Senate to Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown. But Brown’s victory is only the latest bruise. Three weeks ago, North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan and Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd announced their retirements. And last month, Alabama Congressman Parker Griffith switched parties.
True, more Republicans are planning to retire from Congress than Democrats—for now. But conservative Democrats who voted for Obamacare look pale for some reason. Maybe they’re sweating the fact that in Rasmussen Reports’ exit polls from last week’s election, 56 percent of voters said that health care was the most important factor in their decisions, and 51 percent opposed the Democrats’ plan—in Massachusetts.
Democrats’ troubles stem from their handling of health care, an issue on which their arrogance is patent.
The Democrats’ proposal arrogates to themselves control of a sixth of our economy. They demand that insurers disregard preexisting conditions, but insurers distinguish between the sick and the healthy because the former are more expensive. If insurers cannot charge different prices, they’ll charge the healthy more to cover the difference. And if plans prove too pricey, the healthy will drop them, sucking money from the pool and raising premiums for the sick. So Democrats want everyone to buy coverage or face a fine, yet the fine they’ve prescribed is too low to deter dropouts. A higher fine, they fear, would provoke outrage.
On top of this morass, Democrats assert that their plan, which subsidizes about 30 million people so that they can afford coverage, will lower the deficit. Fears of higher taxes and bigger deficits, they sneer, are unfounded. Their reasoning? The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says so. But they raise taxes to pay for the subsidies—a surcharge on the rich in the House of Representatives, a tax on “Cadillac plans” in the Senate—taxes that could have gone exclusively to reducing the deficit. And the CBO warns that the deficit will lessen only if Congress cuts billions from Medicare. Yeah right.
Yet Democrats scoff at critics. Republicans, they say, offer criticism but no solutions. What about Arizona Congressman John Shadegg’s proposal to allow people to buy insurance across state lines? Or Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s offer to tax employer-provided insurance and provide tax credits for individual coverage? Or Arizona Senator John McCain’s push for caps on exorbitant lawsuits against medical malpractice? Or former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney’s suggestion that states lift their mandates on insurers that force them to cover particular services—like in vitro fertilization?
“Please, Republicans are tools of Big Business,” they counter. Really? Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) authorized its lobbyists to spend $150 million on television commercials in support of President Barack Obama’s plan. Democrats had to bribe Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu and Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson with millions of dollars in funding to their states for their votes. And President Obama had to break his pledge to broadcast negotiations on C-SPAN, because the more people learn about his plan, the more they dislike it.
Besides their unworkable policies and their weak counterarguments, Democrats demonstrate arrogance with their flabby campaigning. “Republicans are culture warriors,” Democrats used to tell us, “who attack candidates’ personal lives to avoid discussing issues.” Yet Virginia State Senator Creigh Deeds, the Democrats’ failed gubernatorial candidate, aired television ads attacking his Republican opponent, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, on his graduate thesis. President Obama, when he campaigned in Massachusetts for the Democrats’ failed senatorial candidate, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, ridiculed Brown’s pickup truck. Coakley herself stressed Brown’s party label, believing his association alone could sink him. This year, Democrats are the culture warriors.
After these candidates flopped, Democrats patronizingly blamed their misfortunes on voters’ “anger.” “People are angry, and they’re frustrated,” Obama told George Stephanpoulos, “not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years.” This tactic smells stale. In 1994, Peter Jennings, then-host of ABC Nightly News, said voters threw a “temper tantrum” after Republicans won control of Congress. And Time magazine declared on its cover that Newt Gingrich had “perfected the politics of anger.” Democrats dismiss disagreement as mere emotion.
So here’s my plea for humility. President Obama should drop his plans for health care and focus on the economy, which remains Americans’ main concern. Democrats have spent months trying to fool people into believing that expanding government is fiscally responsible and have failed. The current floundering is only trying people’s patience.
Most damning is their attempt to pooh-pooh their defeats as the result of voter anger against incumbents. People have legitimate objections to Obamacare, and no amount of spin can change that. For Democrats to try, they make themselves look ridiculous—and desperate.
Brian J. Bolduc ’10, a Crimson editorial writer, is an economics concentrator in Winthrop House.