02 September 2009
Why is Obama losing the healthcare battle?
Hard though it may be to believe, but Barack Obama's healthcare reforms look dead in the water. His popularity is declining, especially amongst the younger element of the Democratic faithful, and Obama looks more and more like a one term president to this writer. How on earth did this disaster come about? There are three closely interrelated factors that lead irrevocably to that conclusion.
The first is that talking about Obama's healthcare plan is a contradiction in terms because he doesn't seem to have one. That was probably an advantage during the election campaign because it meant that his proposals could not be scrutinised very closely, but nobody could have guessed that not only did he not actually have any ideas, but almost a year later that situation would continue.
This has led to a situation where the right can make the running and can pretty much say whatever it wants about healthcare reform and nobody on the left can point to the actual wording of the Obama proposal as a rebuttal because it doesn't exist.
Secondly, and as Robert Reich the former Labour Secretary pointed out, in the USA "the left has ideas and the right has discipline". This has led to a plethora of schemes being put forward by any number of Democrats, and all the while the right continue to sing from the same choir sheet. Thus as proposal follows proposal the waters are muddied and policy becomes confusing to the average voter. However, the right's opposition is simple and easy to understand: Obama wants to kill your grandmother. . .
Finally, a year ago the Obama campaign was heading for the rocks, seemingly unable to get to grips with the fast moving Republican attacks and today exactly the same thing seems to be happening to the administration. Back then Obama took control of the campaign and made some changes to it, but the main factor behind his victory was the state of the economy.
He cannot rely on such external factors any more as the buck stops at his desk. He must put forward his own proposals for healthcare reform and then use the overwhelming majority that the Democrats have in Congress to ram the bill through.