The Daily Beast: Democrats Must Prepare to Get Mad

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I expect, as I think most of us do, an unfriendly decision (from the Democratic point of view) on the health-care law. Can’t yet say how unfriendly; at the very least, an overturning of the individual mandate, and maybe more.

Assuming that’s correct, the question immediately becomes how the president and the Democrats should respond. There’s very little they can do legislatively. But I’ll be watching for rhetoric, tone, even body language. And on those counts, they had damn well better dispense with the usual liberal woe-is-me hand-wringing and shoulder slumping and come out swinging. They had better communicate to their base that they stand for something, it’s important to them, and they’re pissed. And if they do it the right way, they can make the Supreme Court an issue this fall in a way that might even persuade some swing voters that the court overstepped its bounds. I’d go so far as to say that an aggressive response can reset and reframe the whole health-care debate, once Americans have had their minds focused on this by a blatantly partisan court.

In this March 19, 2010, file photo, President Barack Obama speaks about healthcare reform at the Patriot Center at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak). Read more at http://www.madmikesamerica.com.

Let’s say the court overturns the mandate by a typical 5-4 vote, but leaves the rest of the law intact. What must the Democrats do? The main thing is all about tone. I can just picture already what I fear I will see: Obama coming out to a press conference with his head down, speaking in a dour monotone, still trying to point out the silver linings but in a way that sends the message to anyone listening that he’s really apologizing for them, and muttering that he is now “calling on the Congress to act” (this has become my least favorite Obama phrase) and get busy working on one of the alternative approaches that will still keep the law alive—which is nothing more than a punchline, really, because everybody knows Congress isn’t lifting a finger.

No, a thousand times no! He needs to stand up there and get mad. The law may be unpopular, but he and the Democrats are stuck with it, and being stuck with it, they need to stick by it. Almost never before in American history has a Supreme Court taken a law duly passed by the people’s representatives and in just two years’ time invalidated it. If that isn’t legislating from the bench, what is? Mr. Cool needs to get Hot. Against unanimous and ferocious opposition, and in the face of blatant lies about what this bill would and would not do, he and the Democrats came up with a way for people with cancer and diabetes and what have you to get the treatment they need and not be either turned away or gouged. He’s proud of that, he ought to say, and by God, he’s going to fight for it. That provision of the law is wildly popular—85 percent supported that, in a late-March New York Times survey. If you can’t play offense with 85 percent of the people behind you, I give up.

He should also go right at Mitt Romney, on two points. First, Romney flatly opposes coverage for all people with preexisting conditions. He backs care only for those who have had “continuous coverage,” and not for people whose insurance had lapsed at any point during their illness. So Romney is against something 85 percent of Americans support. I am sadly confident that you did not know that. Good work, Democrats.

Second: when Romney was governor, he supported—insisted on—exactly the same provision that the court will have just struck down. The people of Massachusetts were forced to buy insurance. They live under that regime today, thanks to Governor Romney. And guess what? They like it—62 percent approved of the law, in a poll from earlier this year. And now, to please far-right interests putting hundreds of millions of dollars into his campaign, he would deny the people of the country the one good thing he did for the people of Massachusetts as their governor.

Now we come to the court itself. Far be it from me to second-guess Jeff Shesol, who wrote in Newsweek that Obama should not take on the court. But a brand-new poll by Hart Research for the Alliance for Justice suggests that with the right approach, the court can be made an issue. In the case that I suggested at the top of this column—a 5-4 decision along the usual lines—69 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents agreed that “they would believe that the justices based their decisions more on their own political views than on their interpretation of the law and Constitution.” Fifty-seven is not an overwhelming majority. But it’s a majority nonetheless, and if Democrats aren’t afraid to make this case strongly, they can turn it into an even bigger one.

In sum, the Democrats should see an adverse decision as a chance to put the other guys—the Republicans in Congress, Romney, and the court’s ideological majority—on the defensive. It is what Republicans would do; they’d bay endlessly about an “out of control” court and all the rest. It’s one of the key psychological differences between conservatives and liberals. When conservatives suffer a political setback, they prowl the terrain like lions, looking for a few necks to bite. When liberals suffer one, they ball up like kittens and ask themselves, “Oh, gee, what did we do wrong?”

That impulse, not any particular talking point, has been the whole problem on this health-care debate to begin with. As it is on so many matters. Maybe John Roberts and his little quartet of sea-green incorruptibles will finally get it through their heads.

Many thanks to Michael Tomasky writing for The Daily Beast.

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Posted by on June 25, 2012. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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7 Responses to The Daily Beast: Democrats Must Prepare to Get Mad

  1. Erin Nanasi Reply

    June 25, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    A M E N. I’m an angry liberal, and I am sick of Democrats moping about when we lose. Thanks for this!!

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      June 25, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      I’m with you Erin. Democrats have always been the weak sisters, so to speak. Had they marched on Washington during the health care debate and demanded universal coverage, and lobbied the media and the rich and powerful we would now be living in a country that provides health care to all at NO COST.

  2. Mary Reply

    June 25, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    Michael, I did lots of marching during the 2009 healthcare debates. I was filmed by conservative creepy guys, has my loyalty to the US questioned and best of all my intelligence questioned by people who can’t spell. Getting the bill passed is a historic milestone. I don’t like the mandate! I question if I will ever be able to afford a premium at all. The mandate is there because it pleased insurance companies and conservatives at the time. I have stayed loyal to the bill since it is a start toward what the opponents of it fear: Single Payer. The theory that government cannot do anything well is blown away by programs like Social Security, Medicare and VA medical services. Yet is will continue to be a target of those who are determined to do away with The New Deal and all of it’s benefits to common workers. We are the 99%. I will march again. I will do it in a fury. You know, I cannot afford to get to DC to march. There is no huge bankroll getting us there like Tpartiers have had. This is why historically, crazies have more of a say in our system than the rest of us. I will push my Senators and my useless Representative to support our bill. My Senators will or they will have some heavy explaining to do as they marched with us to get the bill passed.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      June 25, 2012 at 8:13 pm

      Wow! Thanks so much Mary for this. I had no idea that there was any real support for the health care bill, and no idea that people like you were filling to fight for it. Thanks. I’d love to see a FB page devoted to this subject.

      • Mary Reply

        June 26, 2012 at 2:10 pm

        Healthcare for All Colorado is one in CO. You would have to check for one in your state. Americans for Healthcare is another. That is a start. They are often in regions or particular states. HCAC has been a leader in CO. They are focused, have consistent volunteers and an excellent board. Good luck! Contact me on FB if you need more info.

  3. Bill Formby Reply

    June 26, 2012 at 12:32 pm

    The problem with Democrats is that we are thinking people whereas the Republicans are not. The Republicans can coalesces behind a bumper stick quote but the Demos can’t. We tend to think through and see things in different perspectives. This is one time we need to come together behind one idea, support Obama and healthcare. We need to get onto every elected official calling themselves democrat or moderate Republican and rides their asses into the ground if necessary. This is one issue and one election we cannot afford to lose.

  4. The Lawyer Reply

    June 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    I agree with the analysis. It’s high time for dems to reach down and verify they have a couple, and use them.

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