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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.



An insightful post, but your final prescription, Doctor Exile, would make the operation a success but lose the patient his life.

The Democratic majority in Congress will not "ram the bill through" because Obama's policies are not popular, and defying a great part of the popular will in this way will result in them losing their majority in Congress at the next elections. Never underestimate the spineless opportunism of those who proclaim their politics is all about the greater good and eschews personal interests. Besides, as you point out yourself, what IS the bill?

More likely, Obama will settle on some tinkering, dumping his left-wing (naturally), but preserving his political face. The Left will have a consolation prize in being able to sulk and blame the Right for their failure -- they are never happier than when feeling like the unfairly treated loser.

One aspect not dealt with in your otherwise excellent post is the fact that Obama was not elected by a naturally conservative country to radically transform the USA, but to provide a competent and decent navigator through the storms of the financial crisis. Well, the fear surrounding that crisis has diminished, and Obama has rather ineptly allowed his left-wing to talk about his "radical plans" and scare the bejesus out of the 90% of the country that, personally-speaking, doesn't have any great problem with their existing health cover. In this he has demonstrated his lack of experience as a politician able to carry his opposition with him, not just his hero-worshipers.

One term president? I think that may be a bit of a stretch given that the Republicans are in a big mess and at present have no heavyweights or heirs apparent on their side. But who knows, you might be right.

(By the way, glad to see you back blogging and I hope you are feeling better, Ken. In your absence you were missed, even by the likes of me :)

2 September 2009 at 16:43  

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