Watching these town hall battles — which seem to have settled into a stasis as supporters of health reform have decided to show up finally — has convinced me of one thing: Obama is winning this August health care battle.
No, his ideas aren’t necessarily winning plaudits among various elements of elite political commentary. Nor are skeptics necessarily embracing any of the five broad proposals on the table. Instead, his political opposition is imploding in a fit of self-referential rage.
There are lots of very serious issues to discuss, including how we will pay for health reform, how it will affect the doctor-patient relationship, how it will affect Medicare, how doctors will be paid under a new system, how a public option or co-op will affect the private insurance industry, and most importantly — how each of these interchangeable parts will affect the other.
But we aren’t having that discussion this August. Instead we are talking about a black conservative in St. Louis supposedly beaten up by “SEIU thugs,” even though the video of the incident shows Gladney walking around while two SEIU members lie on the ground. Then, as tea party protesters picket the SEIU, it comes out that poor Kenneth Gladney had no health insurance
Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. If anything was more calculated to make the Right look foolish than this St. Louis incident then I’d love to see it. Of course, that’s only one example of the nuttiness on the right, including posters of Obama as Hitler, and screaming wackos of various stripes.
Sarah Palin’s obscene death panel comment only underscores just how much the Right has ceded serious discussion of health care.
Much like the radical left in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the nuttiness of the protesters only helped to marginalize them among the larger population.
And I’ll add one more thing. I don’t think this is all about some racial subtext, as Paul Krugman argues. I think it’s about the last gasp of Reaganism, which died in the 2008 election. Just as the FDR New Deal Coalition fell apart in 1968 so did the Reagan Coalition falter in 2008. The Tea Party protesters and other assorted screamers, birthers, deathers, etc. are desperately trying to keep the band together for another go-around. Meanwhile, the country has moved on. Yes, the transition is rocky, as it was for Nixon in 1969-71 (and Reagan in 1981-83). But the era of angry, white, conservative, elderly, rural and exurban voters dominating American politics is over. And without even a Republican leader to rally them, the frustration and rage becomes more palpable. “Socialist” wasn’t enough of an insult to defeat Obama in November. It still isn’t.
As for health care reform, the various Democratic members of Congress besieged by these nutters have only reaffirmed their commitment to health care reform. Whether it still includes a public option is still up for grabs. But I have no doubt after watching the self-immolation of the Right that health care reform will pass. Perhaps President Obama should invite some of these tea party protesters to the signing ceremony. He’ll need them to push through the rest of his agenda.