As Labor Day approaches, the “town hall meetings” are at last coming to an end. In case you haven’t heard, these meetings between members of Congress and their constituents have seen remarkable protests against the Democrats’ "Obamacare" health care reform bill(s).
There are two opposing interpretations of the significance of these meetings. On the right, folks point to this vociferous protest as evidence that Obamacare is wrongheaded and doomed. On the left, we hear that the protesters are in fact only a well-organized, disruptive minority stirred up by extremist conservative radio hosts.
The truth, of course, lies somewhere between these two analyses. But the truth is nevertheless bad news for Democrats. Why? Because these protesters have moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats in Congress very worried. And without the Blue Dogs, this installation of the health care battle will halt (see "Whence the Blue Dogs?”).
The reaction of Congressman Allen Boyd, D-Fla., to the protesters is telling. "They may be in a minority, but they are a larger minority than we’ve seen in the 20-plus years that I’ve been doing this," Boyd said in response to angry Obamacare opponents who shouted, booed and handed him a stack of “pink slips.” "I’ve never seen anything like this," he concluded.
Boyd has been in Congress for two decades, and he fully intends to stay there, “pink slips” notwithstanding. That means he will vote against Obamacare. And he will probably be joined by 40 or 50 more Democrat moderates.
For some reason, our president decided to roll the dice and try to force a health care bill in the middle of a major economic downturn. He wanted the bill passed before Congress’ August recess to avoid exactly the kind of protests we have seen over the past three weeks.
It didn’t work.
Many still believe that President Obama is a brilliant politician whose policy expertise and oratorical skills will restore hope and bring change we can believe in. But increasingly this assumption appears to be overly generous. It is entirely possible that our president does not know what he is doing and that he is in way over his head.