Healthcare was a bad idea. Does this sound ludicrous and insane? Well … it is. After all, this country did need some form of health legislation. I’ll be specific: the bad idea was to present universal healthcare legislation to Congress in the midst of the worst recession in the U.S. in decades. It is often said that presidents are able to get the most done immediately after they’ve been elected. Universal healthcare is something Democrats have repeatedly championed. The president was looking to pass a bill Democrats hadn’t had the opportunity to pass for some time. Presidential success, however, is defined in much broader terms than one act.
It’s obvious that this was a mistake on the part of the President for a few reasons. First, President Obama was elected on a wave of resentment on the part of the American people against the Republican Party for plunging them into recession. Before the economic meltdown, he wasn’t leading his opponent by a very large margin. His mandate was clear: fix our economy. He was provided with a large majority in both houses of Congress (which he needed to carry out his mandate). Why, then, did the President decide to act against what the American people wanted?
Let’s take a closer look at the healthcare debate. Even though it dominated news headlines, there was an undercurrent of informed opinion in the media emphasizing that Americans were concerned about healthcare, but even more so about jobs. People were being laid off and were running scared. When you’re in danger of losing your house or worried about finding a job so you can feed your children, health programs tend to come second. Yes, healthcare was important, but the economy was more important. Focusing on the wrong priority led many Americans to become displeased with the President and the Democratic Party as a whole — hence the loss of many Democratic seats in Congress. Healthcare was a mistake because the President lost much of the support of the people. Time will tell whether that hurts him in the next Presidential election.
Second, consider the economic results of such inaction. Where was the comprehensive job creation bill needed immediately after the President’s election? This lack of government action, whilst focusing on healthcare legislation, did nothing for the economy in the short run. We have experienced little or no growth in the past two years. Recall that the bailout plan aimed to stabilize the economy. Where was the similarly powerful plan to stimulate the economy? President Obama made a mistake in that he listened to party leadership rather than his electorate. A political party’s goals and the needs of society are not always in sync.
The next point to consider is what this lack of synchronization resulted in. Democrats lost many of their seats in Congress. Many far-right Republicans were elected. Focusing on healthcare legislation was an unwise move because in order to do anything with relative ease in the American governmental structure, one requires a majority in both houses, or at least a cooperative opposition. Did our President, after the Republicans gained so many seats in Congress, possess either of these? In order to pass bills in Congress you need majorities in both houses. His healthcare legislation caused the President to be put into a situation where his hands were tied. He must now reach across the aisle in order to get anything done. Put simply, he has lost the power to act quickly and decisively. Now he must convince the most unwilling of opponents.
Finally, the last negative generated by the passing of healthcare legislation was the creation of extremist movements. Granted, many of these movements would have been spurred on even without such legislation. Look closely, however, at what Democrats tried to do. They took an issue long on their agenda and, while the Republican Party was weak, tried to force action. Put yourself in the Republican Party’s position. Wouldn’t this anger you? Hence we observe the threat of fillibusters again being utilized. Politics became more partisan because the Democratic Party thought it could satisfy its own agendas without opposition. This would have been fine if the economy was not in a recession and jobs were not the top concern on American minds.
Thus, we now have a situation where the President has lost the mandate to act quickly and effectively in the face of economic underperformance because he is forced to cooperate with those who appear most uncooperative. He has lent momentum to extremist groups. President Obama now faces a disenchanted national audience in the next election. Lastly, he has not been able to do as much for the economy as he would have done otherwise. Let me rephrase: he has not been able to carry out as many efforts as he would have if healthcare had been put off. Perhaps our president made a wise decision in passing universal healthcare legislation. Perhaps he operated with vision, foreseeing a crisis on the horizon. One way or another, however, he was looking to the horizon when he should have been focusing on the punishing sun overhead.