First, President Obama won his presidency running as a candidate that would bring change to the political discourse of the federal government. He would be someone open and transparent and ready to listen. Voters, especially independent ones, gave him the benefit of the doubt based upon that hope, the latter word one that Obama wanted people to buy into. They voted for him, because they believed that he could bring people together through his leadership, through a kind of sheer force of personality and charisma. Voters believed President Obama would usher in a new era of bipartisanship and unity. Of course, then Senator Obama had that 25 to 30 percent, that made up his liberal base, who wanted him to transform the government into their vision of socialism, but he wouldn't have won the election if everyone thought that was what they were voting for. There were many who were warning that he was not going to be some force of change for peaceful relations in Washington, DC, but people instead opted for "hope," which was probably more like a fantasy.
Second, as President Obama came into office, the economy of the country was nearing cataclysmic conditions. The voters trusted President Obama to make the kind of decisions that would improve the economy and increase the employment rate. He talked during the campaign as though this would be his top priority. Then when he came into office, he focused immediately upon the government take-over of health care, what even Governor Howard Dean is calling "redistribution of wealth." So the economy never was Obama's top priority, that was just campaign rhetoric to get votes. He took on the healthcare subject early in his presidency with the hopes that the natural economic cycles would improve about the time his re-election campaign kicked off, knowing that he would perhaps sacrifice his majority in either the House or the Senate. He knew that his political capital would be shrinking, so he needed to move fast before it got so small that he couldn't control Congress, even with his huge Democrat majority.
Third, let's make sure we understand this huge victory that President Obama got. He persuaded zero Republicans. He didn't even get all of his Democrats. The victory he won was in getting a very, very small majority with the party that was already in control of Congress. He persuaded his own party!! Yippeee!!! What great a task is that? And we know, of course, that he would not even have been able to get the support of his own party without all sorts of shady deal making behind the scenes. And then he had to finish it off in the Senate with a parliamentary type of procedure called "reconciliation." He knew he couldn't get a filibuster proof majority in the Senate, so he settled on a reconciliation process that would only require a majority of the votes in a Senate where the Democrats have a 59-41 majority.
So that's our big, transformative victory? It isn't bipartisan. Poll after poll shows that people didn't want the bill to become law. Democrats will argue that when you poll the individual parts of the bill, people wanted it. Right, but the parts that they polled on were the things that almost anyone would want with all the bad stuff that came with getting those things that people wanted. It essentially ignored what President Obama had said he would work on, the economy. We might all be happy that he couldn't do anything worse to the economy than the healthcare bill itself. And last, he talks barely a majority of his own party into voting for it. Surely many of them will be having second thoughts about what they did. This was no kind of big victory. Democrats should have expected this kind of legislation to pass with control of both the executive and the legislative branches. They have a rubber stamp to get almost anything that they want, so this was no kind of victory. It's about as much a victory as my getting out of bed in the morning.
In one sense, I have to admit that I'm cynical, but it is difficult to trust someone so duplicitous. As soon as the health care "victory" is won, President Obama takes a trip to visit the troops. He leaves the United States after his great victory. It's not a victory he wants to stick around and "enjoy." And whatever negatives he could receive from a nation, who by a fairly large majority didn't want his health care bill, which are a lot, would be swallowed up by the positive of visiting the troops. It's like hitting a guy wearing glasses. You don't want to criticize a guy who's visiting the troops. How could a guy so untrustworthy be so bad who surprises the soldiers in Afghanistan? Premeditated. Contrived. Hard to appreciate.
Is it a victory for our country when you can't even persuade all of your own party, let alone anyone in the other party? Is it a victory for the country when you can't even persuade the country itself that the bill is going to be best for it? Is it some great victory when you accomplish it at the expense of all the other things you said you would actually do? John Lott writes today in an article published while I was writing this:
Would Barack Obama and the Democrats have won in 2008 if he had promised what he ended up doing: to dramatically increase government spending and deficits, raise taxes on the middle class, hide special deals on health care, and make it impossible for people to keep their current doctors and health insurance plans?
No. He wouldn't have won the election. And he knew that. So what is this great victory? It is the victory for dishonest politicians, who make promises, knowing that they aren't going to keep them. It's a victory for them.