Yesterday, the so called Doctor Fix failed in the Senate. This was the measure that would stop Medicare cuts set to go into effect next year. The measure would have cost $247 billion over the next ten years. Harry Reid wanted to pass it on its own mostly in order to not have the cost be included in the final health care bill. The AMA was strongly behind the measure and the Democrats were hoping to get them aboard health care reform. Thirteen Democrats joined all the Republicans to defeat the measure.
When President Bush first proposed his tax cuts, he got near unanimous approval from his own caucus. He also got moderates like John Breaux on board. As such President Bush split his opponents and got his own party unified. By reaching out to Ted Kennedy on NCLB, he also got a similar effect. With immigration reform, he had the exact opposite effect. In that case, his own caucus was split.
There's a simple rule in politics. Unite your own party and split your opponents and you win. It's one of those things that's easy to say but difficult to pull off. Yet, success and/or failure entirely depends on successfully executing this model. So far, President Obama and the Democrats have failed miserably. On no initiative has the president been able to split the opposition. In fact, on each of his initiatives, it's his own party that has been divided. On cap and trade, he lost 44 members of his own party. (though 8 Reps switched as well) On health care, we know that at most Olympia Snowe will get on board. That's it.
In fact, the reason that the health care bill was first supposed to pass by August, then October, then Thanksgiving and now at some undetermined date is because the President and the Democratic leadership can't unite his own party. The Democrats wanted to give seniors a one time $250 check. Now, Steny Hoyer is leading the Democratic charge against that initiative and that's losing steam. For all of these initiatives: health care, the doctor fix, the $250 stimulus, the Republicans have been united against them entirely. That's why with only about 40% of the legislature the Republicans have still been able to stop all the President's initiatives. That's because the President and the leadership, UNBELIEVABLY, have proposed nothing but initiatives that have united the opposition and split his own party.
Now, let's think about this. If the Democrats can't unite the party behind a simple $250 check, how are they going to unite their party around something as complicated as health care reform? In fact, it should be more and more clear that the President simply can't manage the crafting of legislature. This is no easy task. Like I said, uniting your own and splitting the opposition is easy to say but much more difficult to do. It's also clear that the President and the Democrats have no idea how to do it.
Since mid summer, it's been clear that the Republicans have been united against health care reform. It's also been obvious that all flanks of the President's own party have been united against parts of the bill. We all remember when Nancy Pelosi said that without the public option 100 votes would be lost in the House. We also remember Max Baucus saying that the public option doesn't have the votes in the Senate. We had a similar phenomenon on cap and trade. Most of the Blue Dogs had problems with it and Representatives from certain energy producing states also had problems. As such, the Democrats were similarly split, though 8 Republicans cross the aisle. The Democrats are so split in the Senate that the bill doesn't appear to come up at all anytime soon.
That's the presidents two main initiatives, cap and trade and health care reform. On both, he and his leadership have managed to accomplish the opposite of what he wanted to do. He's split his own party and united the opposition. That's a recipe for long, sustained, and continued failure.
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