Commentary Magazine


Topic: legislative dysfunction

What a Difference a Year Makes

It was a year ago today that President Obama launched his drive to reform health care. He was confident that he could do what Bill Clinton had failed to do 16 years earlier. As the New York Times reported on March 6, 2009:

Mr. Obama insisted that ”this time is different” because ”the call for reform is coming from the bottom up, from all across the spectrum — from doctors, nurses and patients, unions and businesses, hospitals, health care providers and community groups,” as well as state and local officials.

The Times was reporting on ”a day-long meeting on health care that brought together a diverse group of people, in and out of government.”

“I just want to figure out what works,” Obama told them.

Too bad he didn’t do that. Instead he turned everything over to the ultraliberal Pooh-Bahs of Congress, who produced a bill (or rather two bills, one in the House the other in the Senate) the unpopularity of which has only grown with time. That Obama wanted everything wrapped up by last year’s August recess now seems a long-ago bad joke.

Today there is certainly still a call coming from the bottom up. Unfortunately for the Democrats, it’s an ever-rising groundswell of opposition to ObamaCare, one that threatens to become a political hurricane that could sweep the Democrats out of the majority in both houses of Congress and render the president politically impotent for the rest of his term.

And it isn’t just at the federal level that politicians are feeling the hot wind of public anger rising. Politico reports that state legislatures have approval ratings that in some cases are even worse than Congress’s. Only 16 percent of New Yorkers think their state Senate is doing a good or excellent job. (I guess 16 percent of New Yorkers live on the back of the moon.) Of course, New York is a poster child for legislative dysfunction, but even in Connecticut, only 30 percent approve. In Pennsylvania, it’s 29 percent.

So 2010, thanks in large part to ObamaCare, is shaping up as the most interesting political year since 1980. That was the year that the American electorate began trying to get the political establishment’s attention. They denied a second term to an elected president for the first time since Herbert Hoover and gave the Republicans a majority in the Senate for the first time in 26 years. In 1994 they tried again, ending the Democrat’s majority in the House after 40 years, and even defeating a sitting speaker for the first time since the Civil War.

It was a year ago today that President Obama launched his drive to reform health care. He was confident that he could do what Bill Clinton had failed to do 16 years earlier. As the New York Times reported on March 6, 2009:

Mr. Obama insisted that ”this time is different” because ”the call for reform is coming from the bottom up, from all across the spectrum — from doctors, nurses and patients, unions and businesses, hospitals, health care providers and community groups,” as well as state and local officials.

The Times was reporting on ”a day-long meeting on health care that brought together a diverse group of people, in and out of government.”

“I just want to figure out what works,” Obama told them.

Too bad he didn’t do that. Instead he turned everything over to the ultraliberal Pooh-Bahs of Congress, who produced a bill (or rather two bills, one in the House the other in the Senate) the unpopularity of which has only grown with time. That Obama wanted everything wrapped up by last year’s August recess now seems a long-ago bad joke.

Today there is certainly still a call coming from the bottom up. Unfortunately for the Democrats, it’s an ever-rising groundswell of opposition to ObamaCare, one that threatens to become a political hurricane that could sweep the Democrats out of the majority in both houses of Congress and render the president politically impotent for the rest of his term.

And it isn’t just at the federal level that politicians are feeling the hot wind of public anger rising. Politico reports that state legislatures have approval ratings that in some cases are even worse than Congress’s. Only 16 percent of New Yorkers think their state Senate is doing a good or excellent job. (I guess 16 percent of New Yorkers live on the back of the moon.) Of course, New York is a poster child for legislative dysfunction, but even in Connecticut, only 30 percent approve. In Pennsylvania, it’s 29 percent.

So 2010, thanks in large part to ObamaCare, is shaping up as the most interesting political year since 1980. That was the year that the American electorate began trying to get the political establishment’s attention. They denied a second term to an elected president for the first time since Herbert Hoover and gave the Republicans a majority in the Senate for the first time in 26 years. In 1994 they tried again, ending the Democrat’s majority in the House after 40 years, and even defeating a sitting speaker for the first time since the Civil War.

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