AMAC Exclusive By: Pat Conroy
In 2010, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat Party stopped at nothing to pass the wildly unpopular big government healthcare plan known as Obamacare. The knowing and deliberate disregard for the wishes of the American people led to one of the worst defeats in the history of Congressional elections, with Pelosi losing her Speakership and Democrats losing 6 Senate seats and 63 House seats in what former President Barack Obama famously described as a “shellacking.”
Eleven years later we seem to be witnessing the second coming of Pelosi’s Kamikaze Congress.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted to approve Biden’s $3.5 trillion budget resolution, charting a path forward for Democrats’ radical agenda. The final version of the bill, authored by Senator Bernie Sanders and bizarrely dubbed ‘human infrastructure,’ includes healthcare, childcare, and climate change provisions that would make up the largest expansion of the welfare state and government power since Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society.’ This spending is being approved just as inflation is causing prices for everyday goods and services to spike to their highest levels in thirteen years.
Initially, it appeared as if some so-called moderate Democrats recognized the potentially disastrous electoral consequences of voting for Biden’s spending plan. A group of nine House Democrats publicly challenged Pelosi in a Washington Post op-ed, demanding that Pelosi take up a standalone vote on the $1.2 trillion hard infrastructure package separate of the “largely undefined $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.”
However, it turned out to be political theatre, with the entire group falling back into line right at crunch time and voting just as Pelosi and Biden wished. In doing so, these members may have sealed their political fate and further weakened Democrats’ already slim chances of retaining their majorities next year.
If the Democrat vote appeared suicidal to their chances of retaining their majorities, the history of Obamacare’s passage shows that this outcome may have been somewhat predictable, and may actually be a well calculated long term decision on the part of Pelosi, Schumer, and their progressive allies—whether they are correct in that calculation or not.
Obamacare was extremely polarizing from its inception, turning off a majority of independents and nearly all Republican voters. Even in deep blue Massachusetts, voters elected a Republican, Scott Brown, to a Senate seat in a special election in January of 2010 that was a sign of impending doom for many Democrats. Obamacare was a major issue during the campaign, and Obama himself campaigned for Brown’s opponent, a major embarrassment for a sitting President.
Nevertheless, Democrats in Congress at the time, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, plunged forward anyway. Pelosi and Reid were in essence coaxing members of their caucus to commit political suicide in order to fulfill their party’s fundamental long-term mission: to expand the power of the federal government and make more and more Americans dependent on welfare and the Democrat Party.
According to a 2011 report released by two professors, Seth Masket of the University of Denver and Steven Greene of North Carolina State University, 13 Democrats all went on to lose reelection chiefly because of their support for Obamacare. “These are the members who, according to our findings, would still be in the House of Representatives were it not for their healthcare vote,” Masket and Greene concluded.
In the 2010 election, as may well be the case in elections next year, voters delivered a sweeping electoral punishment to their incumbent representatives for betraying their wishes and choosing instead to appease party leadership’s intense focus on growing the size and power of the federal government.
Was it worth it? For Democrats, the answer might be yes, even among those who had to fall on their swords in the process. Former 18-term Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota’s 8th District was one of those Democrats who had no regrets for his Obamacare vote. “I voted for it because I thought it was the right policy for this country,” Oberstar said in an interview. “I thought it was the kind of transformational legislative initiative that candidate Obama promised and President Obama delivered.”
Democrats understand that once the American people become dependent on a government program, it’s nearly impossible to strip it away – look no further than the infamous March 2017 failed attempt to repeal Obamacare by way of the late Senator John McCain’s thumbs down. Chief Justice John Roberts was unwilling to strike down Obamacare as unconstitutional after he reportedly reversed his position and rewrote portions of the law to uphold it in a widely criticized 5-4 decision. Without the filibuster-proof majority that Democrats enjoyed in 2010, Republicans may find it difficult if not impossible to reverse course on Democrats’ current spending plans just as they have largely failed to undo the disastrous effects of Obamacare.
10 years later with a new Democrat president installed in the White House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are looking to replicate their kamikaze approach from 2010 in order to ram through trillions of dollars in new government spending that will change the face of not just American healthcare, but every other facet of American life as well—a transformation they hope will ultimately deliver Democrats to greater, and more permanent, political power.
For those nine “moderates” and many other Democrats who represent swing districts, that might mean the end of their political careers. Undoubtedly, they will be well-compensated for their betrayal of their constituents with lucrative jobs at left-wing nonprofits and other liberal organizations. But for Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and the other radical progressives who run the Democrat Party, they may calculate that sacrificing a few members and control of Congress will be worth it if it means moving the United States one step closer to becoming a socialist country.
And yet, there is another possibility: Democrats may have badly miscalculated. After a year of COVID restrictions destroying the economy and wokeism destroying the culture, the $5 trillion Democrat spending binge may be a bridge too far for the American people. This is especially true now that President Donald Trump has ensured that the establishment wing of the Republican party cannot get away with casting a cost-free vote to sanction Democrat radicalism, earning cheap grace from the media.
There is always the chance that the high water mark of progressivism may have passed, and a generational conservative realignment is on the way.
Pat Conroy is the pen name of a Washington, D.C. based political strategist.
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