Monday, April 22, 2013

Are The Democrats Blowing It Again?

Six years in office and 2006 brings a stinging Republican defeat, because the Republicans blew it.  They could have consolidated their victory if they hadn’t been so incompetent. 

Two years in office in 2010 and the Obama forces are routed.  Obama’s whole career shows the fruits of Republicans blowing it, not to diminish the undoubted campaigning expertise and energy of Obama.  Bobby Rush was his last really credible opponent who didn’t blow it.  But in office, their trumpet becomes a weak reed, they don’t know how to put spine in the country, the stock market reels and Obama says hardly a word – he is an economic illiterate, which doesn’t help, and the advisors are poor.  So they lose big time.  Lost the big mo.

2011-12 – Republicans have it in the bag, an incumbent never having won with such weak jobs numbers.  OK, good Obama campaign, smart, smart on the ground electronic cyber campaign.  But, the Republicans field the worst set of candidates this side of Mad Magazine.  Even then, weak as Romney and the Republicans were, they probably would have won, were it not for the 47% video, and other self-immolations.  Did Obama win, or did Romney lose?  It was a cooperative effort.

Cut to my taxi ride home Sunday night.  My voluble but eloquent Pakistani driver, age perhaps 50, inquired about my trip, and as I told him about the Academy of Pediatrics and my worries about Obamacare, he averred that he was strongly for it.  “People need insurance,” he said.

He makes about $60,000 a year,  “I’ll get it, right?” he said.

I said that my best guess, not knowing as much as I would like about the plan – which shows something in itself, since it is my field and I am not lazy about getting information – would be that at that level of income he would have to pay about half of the cost of insurance himself.  That took him back a bit.

Then I said, it’s not certain that your family would be covered.  A recent IRS decision was that for an employed individual, if the cost of the insurance policy for just the employee would be 9.5% or less of his or her income, the insurance policy would qualify.  But the cost of family coverage could be much more.  In this case the penalty for not getting insurance would not be applied.  In other words, for a substantial section of the employed public, families would not be covered.  This was what I hoped for as a business owner, which I no longer am, since I thought it would damage my business.  As a citizen, a Democrat, and a health care policy analyst, I think it’s ridiculous if families won't be covered.

So it’s possible my taxi driver, if he is an employee, could have his family out in the cold.  He said to me, “You are making me nervous.”  I told him I was nervous myself.

Here is a man who is telling his friends that Obamacare will be a good thing.  Will his hopes be dashed?  Will his friends turn on him and say, “See?  You were foolish to be taken in by the government and the politicians.”

It will all be coming down in 2014, which I know I needn’t remind you, dear reader, is a midterm election year, when the party in power is at maximum risk.

Recall the conversation in the Theda Skocpol seminar last week, where the gathering speculated as to why the “good news” of Obamacare hadn’t swept the nation, and why the Democrats hadn’t trumpeted more strongly.  My own diagnosis was incompetence.  Who would trumpet?  Obama doesn’t know details, and he is only responsible for a clarion call now and then.  Nancy Pelosi is not articulate, although she is a hero of mine.  Harry Reid?  Sibelius does talking points only and not very convincingly.  There is no one from the White House.  We are getting sounds of silence.

What we need is management of expectations.  There needs to be a knowledgeable, articulate spokesperson.  Probably Don Berwick hoped to be that person, but he was banished by the Republicans.  Daschle probably wanted to be that person also.  But in fact, the Democrats never found that someone.  The advantages of Obamacare need to be highlighted now, one by one, as they come in, and the challenges they are facing and hoping to overcome, and a play by play recitation mixing hope with reality.  Hope and progress needs to be heralded by trumpets and drums.  Instead, what we will get is a denouement that startles everyone with the deficiencies, and leaves the taxi driver embarrassed and embittered, and leaves the Democrats with a 2014 that resembles 2006.

And health reform?  I think it’s here to stay, but enthusiasm and appreciation of the positives would sure make for a better entrance than disappointment in the inevitable deficiencies.

Anyway, that’s my fear.

Budd Shenkin

No comments:

Post a Comment