Pin It
Favorite

Scorched-Earth Stalemate 

Looks like President Obama is in for a rough finish, but amid all the inaction, there may be a silver lining

click to enlarge robert-herold.jpg

The University of Washington recently advised students that, after September, the university will no longer offer a health care plan to them. Students, therefore, must sign up for new policies through the state exchanges. Critics of the Affordable Care Act have hit the hustings with, "Ah-ha! See, just one more piece of evidence that Obamacare isn't working!"

This news comes at the same time we get reports that the millennial generation is losing faith in the president. Columnists tell us that the root cause that Democrats up for re-election are running scared — and that the millennials are disaffected — is anger over the ACA.

In fact, regardless of the issues, two-term presidents have historically lost much ground in their final two years. By my count, Theodore Roosevelt gained three seats in the Senate but lost 28 in the House. Woodrow Wilson lost six in the Senate, 19 in the House. Even Dwight Eisenhower took a beating, losing 13 in the Senate, 48 in the House. Ronald Reagan? He did somewhat better: He lost eight in the Senate but only five in the House. Bill Clinton? The Senate played to a draw, but the Republicans still controlled it. And in the House, Clinton beat the odds and picked up four seats. George W. Bush lost six seats in the Senate and 32 in the House.

Despite that weight of history — not to mention President Obama's own particular set of problems — it's still surprising that this Republican Congress could be sending Democrats running for the hills. Sporting single-digit approval ratings, the Republican-led House has produced a record of unmatched futility. They closed down the government; they failed to deal with the most pressing issues, such as immigration reform; they barely got a farm bill out; but they have found time for such worthless pastimes as Benghazi and defunding Obamacare.

As noted above, many observers tell us that the trail leads to the ACA. I think there's more to the story.

As in 2010, the 2014 election will be all about turnout, and the millennials are feeling ignored, overlooked and dismissed. It isn't that they'll vote for Republicans: they won't. The question — as it was in 2010 — is whether they'll vote at all.

They're right to feel alienated: As early as the spring of 2009, Obama had stopped talking to his younger constituents. There they were, in the wake of the crash of 2008, with college loans to begin paying off, but no jobs. It was an entire generation at risk of falling off the economic radar screen, yet Obama said... nothing.

By that time, it had become clear that Obama had no inner Pete Carroll to channel to rally his supporters like some kind of vast 12th Man. It's true that they voted in 2012, but presidential elections serve to expose the major differences, and they weren't about to vote for Mitt Romney. But an off-year election? That's a different story.

Obama's shortcomings on dealing with the issues our young people face shouldn't let the Republicans off the hook. Their endless drumbeat against institutions of government, against equality, against women's rights, against immigration reform, against health care reform, against sane environmental regulations — all those issues have become functionally impossible to solve on this Congress' watch.

In retrospect, it all started with the issue of health care reform. In 2009, the Republicans couldn't even agree with Obama on the definition of the obvious problem. That is: America needed some form of universal health coverage; America was spending too much of its GDP on health care; and the actual results we were getting — in life expectancy and other measures of health — were shockingly bad for the money we had been spending.

We needed agreement at least on these obvious facts, but it was not to be. Thus, no useful exploration and constructive debate about, for example, what could be taken from the Nixon plan — and, yes, he had plans for health care. What about the Clinton plan? Or what Romney did in Massachusetts? Nope, not to be, given that the Republicans' only agenda was to deny Obama a second term; their strategy, to marshal all the demagoguery necessary to pull it off.

But all this gloom and doom aside, it could well be that the very worst thing the Republican Party could do this year would be winning back the Senate. They wouldn't have a veto-proof Senate, but if they take control of both the House and the Senate, they will be held responsible if they stay true to form and spend the following two years sitting on their hands.

If this happens, Democrats would then be well advised to haul out the 1948 Harry Truman playbook for 2016 and make the election all about that do-nothing Congress.

(A final note: The UW has done its own calculations and determined that students will get a better deal on the exchanges.) ♦

  • Pin It

Speaking of...

Latest in Comment

  • Children Will Listen
  • Children Will Listen

    How art speaks to life in this particular moment
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • So Here We Are
  • So Here We Are

    Here's hoping the new president fills the office with the grace and sense of tradition it requires
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • Get Big Money Out
  • Get Big Money Out

    Letters to the Editor
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • More »

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Today | Tue | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun
GSI’s Business After Hours

GSI’s Business After Hours @ Hotel RL by Red Lion at the Park

Thu., Jan. 26, 5-7 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by Robert Herold

  • So Here We Are
  • So Here We Are

    Here's hoping the new president fills the office with the grace and sense of tradition it requires
    • Jan 18, 2017
  • One Free Shave
  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • Migrant Industries
  • Migrant Industries

    John F. Kennedy predicted our current battles all the way back in 1954
    • Dec 15, 2016
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • One Free Shave

    Donald Trump might have merited a honeymoon with voters had he managed his transition better
    • Dec 29, 2016
  • The Landed and the White

    How Americans followed tradition when they voted for Trump
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • More »

Top Tags in
News & Comment

Comment


Briefs


marijuana


green zone


Politics


Readers also liked…

  • To Kill the Black Snake
  • To Kill the Black Snake

    Historic all-tribes protest at Standing Rock is meant to stop the destruction of the earth for all
    • Sep 8, 2016
  • Grit and Will
  • Grit and Will

    How we move beyond the Rachel Dolezal sideshow
    • Jul 8, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation