ACRU Senior Fellow Ken Blackwell wrote this column appearing September 9, 2010, on The Daily Caller website.
“Democrats choose Death Panels…” announces Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart with mock horror, “…for themselves!” It’s a very funny bit. The Washington Post’s Karen Tumulty plays it straight as she reports: “Ultimately, some candidates, including incumbents, will have to be left for dead so that the parties can spend where it might still make a difference.”
Then, there’s Michael Barone in the Washington Examiner. Mr. Barone has probably forgotten more about American politics than most political commentators will ever know. The editor for 40 years of the Almanac of American Politics knows political panic when he sees it. He nails the word “triage,” saying that leaders of the House majority party are prepared to effect “a brutal triage of their own members in hopes of saving enough seats to keep a slim grip on the majority.”
The current liberal majority in Congress assured its members that the 2,000-page health care legislation they were demanding would become more popular with voters after it was passed. That has not proven to be the case. The president’s health care legislation has become more unpopular the more voters focus on it.
Barone reports that no member of the majority who voted for the president’s signature legislation is running ads touting that fact. A significant number of majority party members who voted against Obama’s bill are running campaign ads stressing that opposition. This is a clear indication that the votes they cast for nationalizing health care are not campaign pluses, and are in fact anchors around their necks. And the waters are rising.
I’m struck by the fine irony here. This is the group that pooh-poohed Sarah Palin’s talk of “death panels.” Ridiculous. It’ll never happen. This is America, after all.
Yet look what they resort to when some of their political bodies are on life support. What is this “triage” except a form of rationing? They are taking scarce resources, in this instance campaign cash, and they are giving it only to those who are showing signs of political health.
It is any wonder that town hall meetings last summer erupted into grassroots anger? Is it any surprise that Congress as an institution is saddled with a 71% disapproval rating? (Well, that’s better than it was in August. Last month, 72% of Americans disapproved of their lawmakers.)
Voters are taking a dim view of incumbents who try to convince them that they are now “anti-Washington.” These are the members who just months ago voted for the biggest power grabs by the federal government in our history. They did not just vote to take over health care, they gobbled up college student loans. They rubber stamped the Obama administration’s takeover of banks, insurance companies, and auto makers.
Many in the majority in the House of Representatives voted for so-called cap-and-trade legislation that will have the effect of letting the federal government run every industry in the country. If businesses have to clear every decision on energy consumption with federal bureaucrats, it’s the end of anything resembling free enterprise. It isn’t just a socialist bill; it establishes a socialist system for the first time in this country.
The Senate in this case performed its constitutional role well. George Washington once showed how the Senate would function by pouring some hot tea from his cup into his saucer. The Senate is the saucer and the Senate allowed this hot socialist measure to cool.
It is as a result of all these unwise and very likely unconstitutional measures that the congressional liberal majority finds itself in such trouble. The polls have never shown such lopsided numbers of disapproval and voters ready to vote the ins out.
Still, political rationing only mimics health care rationing. The members whose campaigns are flat lining will not suffer anything more than the loss of political office. As one who has held public office and who has suffered political defeat, I can assure the worried incumbents there are great days ahead of them. It is better for them to lose office than to continue pushing America toward real health care rationing. The losers in that game are not just “left for dead” politically. I personally would rather be voted out than participate in such a public disservice.