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7/27/2011

Did President Obama Learn the Wrong Lessons from Health Care Reform?

Revival:The Struggle for Survival inside the Obama Whitehouse,  Richard Wolfe's recently released assessment of the inner workings in President Barak Obama's first two years in the White House, confirmed what myself and other Progressives have always suspected. It also implies Obama has never understood that passage of the health care reform bill was no referendum on the bills popularity. Wolfe describes a White House "fracture" involving "survivalists lead by Rham Emanuel, and "revivalists" such as Valerie Jarret. Survivalists pushed for compromise, while revivalists stood by ideals expressed in the election campaign. None of this was surprising, but I find it alarming that the President has apparently learned the wrong lessons from failures in these first two years. Most alarming is Wolfe's description of an administration which viewed it's ability to pass health care reform as a comeback following a stunning Democratic loss in Massachusetts which gave the senate seat left open by the death of  lifetime universal health care proponent and liberal lion, Edward Kennedy, to Republican Scott Brown.  Brown defeated the state's Democratic Attorney General, Martha Coakley.  Does the White House really believe the passage of health care reform after this Democratic defeat was more than it was perceived by Progressives? Is it their contention that passage of a health care bill reflected an unexpected comeback by the President, and do they really fail to see how poorly it's passage was actually perceived?  Yes, Progressives rallied around the bill that was finally passed; But we did so based on promises like the ones that got a yes vote out of Dennis Kucinich. Promises that Democrats would build on this reform and eventually come away with a strong public option. Promises which had to be made because Democrats had compromised so much, they initially lost the support of those House Progressives who had insisted on some form of a public option or Medicare buy in.  They were now forced to convince the biggest proponents of health care reform to vote yes on a version which lacked both.  The health care reform bill that passed wasn't popular with Americans; polls have shown Americans wanted greater reform. As a result, it's passage was not the result of it's, or it's creators, overwhelming popularity. The final bill, The Affordable Care Act, was only passed through reconciliation and it in it's final form, was basically Bob Dole's Republican health care overhaul circa 1996.  Passing it was no big comeback by President Obama: It was more like settling for what little his administration had to offer after many Democratic concessions.  The President continues, not only to be a poor judge of his Republican opponents, he continues to misread public sentiment if he doesn't understand the lessons of the health care reform battles.  If he continues to listen to the survivalists who seem too willing to compromise, rather than the revivalists who believe in the ideals that made Progressives proud to elect him, President Obama will only have himself to blame when another angry electorate throw him and the rest of the Democrats out in 2012. If the 2010 mid-term elections crop of Republicans is any indication, God help this country if they do.

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