Obamacare on Life Support – by Jacob Laksin

Jacob Laksin is a senior writer for Front Page Magazine. He is co-author, with David Horowitz, of The New Leviathan (Crown Forum, 2012), and One-Party Classroom (Crown Forum, 2009). Email him at jlaksin@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @jlaksin.


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This week’s Republican sweep of gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey was more than a defeat for Democrats. It was also the latest blow for the Obama administration’s increasingly imperiled health care legislation as it comes up for a possible vote this Saturday.

While President Obama has touted health care reform as the signature piece of his domestic policy agenda, voters in both of the high-profile races disagreed on the issue’s importance. In New Jersey, health care ranked fourth on the list of voters’ concerns. Just 17 percent of Garden State voters considered health care the primary issue. The economy (32 percent), property taxes (26 percent), and corruption (20 percent) all rated as more important. Health care ranked higher in Virginia, at 24 percent. But that still made it a distant second to the dominant campaign issue, the economy, which was most important for 47 percent of voters. Notwithstanding President Obama’s defiant pledge this September that he would “not accept the status quo as the solution,” Tuesday’s elections made clear that, for many voters, there are more pressing problems to be addressed.

The election results also suggest that there is scant appetite for a costly new legislative venture. Indeed, Republicans in Virginia and New Jersey were successful in large part because they campaigned as staunch fiscal conservatives. Virginia Governor-elect Bob McDonnell ran on a platform of limited government, low taxes, and opposition to surging federal spending. Chris Christie enjoyed similar success exploiting incumbent governor Jon Corzine’s failure to curb spending and taxes in New Jersey. This backlash against big spenders can hardly be encouraging for the Obama administration and its Democratic allies as they seek to ram through a health care reform bill that the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office has pegged to exceed $1 trillion in new federal expenditures – let alone the $2.4 trillion that Republicans on the Senate Committee estimate as the ten-year cost of the House health care bill.

Equally damaging for Obamacare’s prospects is the disaffection of independents. In both New Jersey and Virginia, independents broke overwhelmingly for the Republican candidate. Chris Christie won 58 percent of New Jersey’s independent voters, to Corzine’s 31 percent. The results in Virginia, the archetypal swing state, were even more telling. On an election day when one third of voters identified as independents, the Republican was preferred by a 2-1 margin. More than a momentous political shift – independents were mostly split between the two parties during the 2008 presidential elections – it is also a warning to moderate Blue Dog Democrats in Congress: Toe the Left’s legislative line, and lose your seat in 2010.

The message has not gone unnoticed by the Blue Dogs. In the wake of Tuesday’s defeats, nervous Democrats from conservative and swing states were urging restraint on heath care reform. Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman Democrat from Alabama, told Politico that he was “very, very sensitive” to the fact that the agenda of the Democratic Congressional leadership has “the potential to cost some of our front-line members their seats.” Such concerns can only complicate Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to recruit Blue Dog Democrats to support a health care bill that would inflate the deficit and radically expand the scope of government. Already, some 30 Blue Dogs are considering voting “no” if the health care bill comes up for a vote this weekend.

Obamacare is not dead and buried, however. Given the Democrats’ current majority, some version of the bill still could pass before the end of the year. And it does not hurt the Democrats’ cause that health care lends itself to unscrupulous politicking. This too was one of the lessons of this week’s elections, as Democrats maintained an advantage on health care even as they lost. In New Jersey, Corzine deployed a version of President Obama’s health care battle plan, decrying his Republican rival Christie as a pawn of “big insurance companies” who would slash services to boost the insurance industry’s profits. One Corzine campaign ad even suggested that Christie would deny New Jersey women coverage for mammograms. Christie responded with an effective counter-ad that mentioned his mother, a breast cancer survivor, but Corzine won the fight: Among voters who named health care their main issue, Corzine took 78 percent to Christie’s 19 percent.

That was not because Corzine made the better argument. In fact, Corzine’s attacks on insurance companies were misdirected. As Merrill Matthews of the Council for American Health insurance observed the Wall Street Journal, one of the main reasons that New Jersey has some of the highest health insurance premiums is the large number of state mandates requiring insurance companies to provide certain kinds of coverage. That in turn drives up costs and denies consumers the freedom to choose their own policies. Corzine’s success in deflecting blame from the government to the private sector serves as a reminder of how easy it can be to demagogue the health care issue.

Even so, the Republican revival evidenced by this week’s elections marks a real setback for Democrats. They have staked their success in 2010 on their ability to push through Obama’s legislative agenda, most notably health care reform. But two months before it arrives, 2010 is shaping up to be a bad year.

  • coyote3

    I don't believe the administration and the current Democrats care if the healthcare bill is legal or not. This is a something for nothing mentality, that I have lived long enough to see flourish. However, legality notwithstanding, if this bill is soooooo good, why are they acting like they are worried about it? Why do they have to “sell” it? It's healthcare reform, right? It is “for the people”, right? They have majorities in both house, and the white house. Why don't they just pass it? They don't need one Republican, one conservative (there are really very few in congress), or even many “moderates” (no such thing). After all, it's all free, right?

  • sandyinohio

    The bill is NOT about health care, reform, lowered costs, more covered, etc. It is about the Liberal Leftist take-over of the country, it's economy & culture, all of which are loathed by the “progressives”, the new name of the communists. Another even better question is: why do they remove themselves from it's control if it is so good?

  • coyote3

    Of course, I agree with you. I have learned that, sometimes, you just have to let people do things to themselves. The American people elected this bunch, and I know it sounds crazy, but at about half of the people supporting these proposed crimes (and that is what they are), I am all for giving them their wish. I know that would cause a lot of suffering, but it never stopped me before. Maybe this is what the American people deserve. Even though I have to suffer some of it too, this might be what is needed. No amount of rational discussion seem to have much effect on about 50% or maybe more. I may be wrong, but we continue down this road, we might, after all, get the limited/indifferent government we are supposed to have, if for no other reason that this road will be unsustainable.

  • bushlikesdick12

    according to the Gallup poll, 85% polled were dissatisfied with the economy in Feb of 2009.

    As of Oct 4th, 2009, 26% on the economy in general , 22% on healthcare, and 17% on jobs are the highest concern.

    So where does Lameskin get his stats? Up Horowitz butt maybe?

  • bushlikesdick12

    unlike Lamskin, I'll cite my source –

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/123662/U.S.-Satisfac

  • bushlikesdick12

    Unlike Lameskin, I'll cite my reliable source:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/123662/U.S.-Satisfac

  • bushlikesdick12

    Unlike Lameskin, I'll cite my reliable source:

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/123662/U.S.-Satisfac

  • Robert Bernier

    Dont Miss this video : Unbelievable

    http://xrl.us/bf29mb

  • keithrage

    I have lost it, cannot listen anymore to the big eared black man, no more lies, just silence please, go away lecturing deceiver, go away, remote ahh.

  • USMCSniper

    Well, Buckwheat's sista gets dah free medical on dah goberment option cause Congress dun passed dah healthcare reparations bill.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qy6XBsLyPg8&feat