There is a political energy in America now, reminiscent of the 2007 immigration debate that Republicans could capture and turn to their advantage next year. It could become a revival of the “Reagan Democrats” — moderate Democrats and independents who vote for Republicans when they believe they are being betrayed by liberal Democrats.
In 2007, Americans were told that there was a crisis in illegal immigration. There was, and still is. But they spoke out in huge numbers against the McCain-Bush-Kennedy “comprehensive” immigration amnesty bill because it did too much, most of it wrong.
The sheer number of those vehemently opposing the bill was instructive: it was far larger than the numbers who are politically active on most issues. But illegal immigration then, and health care now, are “kitchen table” issues of concern to every voter. In 2007, their most common expression was frustration with a government that didn’t represent their interests.
The amnesty bill failed after millions of telephone calls and e-mails deluged Congress demanding it be stopped. But the Republican Party willfully ignored the lesson of 2007 and maximized the damage it incurred by nominating John McCain in 2008.
Now President Obama insists that there is a crisis in health care and has done his best to stampede an overly-liberal Congress into “reforming” the health care system. Like the “comprehensive” immigration “reform” bill of two years ago, the Obamacare bill that has passed three House committees does too much and most of what it does is just as wrong as the immigration amnesty bill was.
According to the latest Rasmussen poll, 54% of Americans believe that doing nothing would be better than what Congress is trying to do to health care. (An earlier Rasmussen poll last week found that 62% of independent voters oppose the Obamacare plan and 51% strongly oppose it.)
The same Americans — a new generation of those who we used to call the “silent majority” — are speaking out against it and for the same reason. They believe, rightly, that government isn’t listening to them and is trying to do something that will do more harm than good.
According to a recent poll, independent voters are siding 2-1 with the opponents of Obamacare. In one town hall meeting last week, according to US New & World Report’s Paul Bedard, only 20% of those in attendance raised their hands when asked how many had ever come to a town hall meeting before. It’s the 80% who had not been politically active before who present the Republicans with a huge opportunity.
Just like 2007, Washington isn’t listening. But this time it’s the Democrats, and they are not only refusing to hear, they’re insistently insulting their constituents.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tx) called Obamacare opponents at his Austin town hall a “Republican mob.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said it was “un-American” to protest loudly. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv) called the town hall protesters “evil mongers.”
But none of them — so far — have plumbed the depths that Washington Democrat Brian Baird reached.
Last Wednesday Baird – having compared the town hall protesters to Hitler’s Brownshirts — said the Obamacare opponents were using rhetoric that was “eerily reminiscent of the kind of things that led Timothy McVeigh to bomb the federal building in Oklahoma.” To Baird, those speaking out against Obamacare are domestic terrorists.
The liberals’ favorite weapon – the accusation of racism – was left for the New York Times to deploy, but even the Times could only manage to imply it. The Times’ Nobel Prize-winning calumniator, Paul Krugman, wrote that the Obamacare opponents are “…probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they’ve heard about what he’s doing, than to who he is.”
(MSNBC talker Ed Schultz said he believes some opponents of Obamacare are “psycho” and want Obama to “get shot.” He added that some conservative broadcasters “want Obama to be taken out.” But that’s MSNBC, not America.)
These Democrats are willfully misreading America, just like the Republicans did in 2007. Today there is a crisis in confidence in government brought on by Obama’s over-reaching on everything from the phony “stimulus” package to Obamacare.
If Republicans can employ a little political jiu-jitsu, they can turn the liberals’ momentum against them and create another “Reagan Revolution.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says that the outpouring of opposition to Obamacare isn’t yet a “Reagan Democrat” resurgence.
In a Friday interview, Gingrich told me that it wasn’t that, because those voters still aren’t sure that they trust Republicans more than Democrats. He said, “It reminds me of 1992,” when the Ross Perot “independents” voiced the same sort of frustration and ultimately delivered the election to Bill Clinton.
Gingrich said of the Obamacare opponents, “They’re upset, they’re unhappy, and where they thought they were voting for ‘change’ last November they were voting to change Washington and now they’re afraid that the vote was to change America more than they want.”
“The Democratic leadership doesn’t listen to the country,” Gingrich said. “The president should listen rather than sell and convene a bipartisan group in September to write a bill from the ground up not to try to fix the current mess.” A good idea, but Obama isn’t interested in bipartisanship: he’s only interested in pushing his government-centric plan.
What happens if the Democrats try to stampede the Obamacare bill through Congress?
Gingrich said, “If they try to push forward, as Speaker Pelosi seems to want to and ram through a bill, I think we see a huge eruption among people who could become the Reagan Democrats of 2009.” So how do Republicans make that happen?
Gingrich recalled the sign James Carville put up in the Little Rock Clinton campaign headquarters in 1992 that said, “It’s the economy, stupid.”
“Every political leader in America should have a sign up that says ‘It’s jobs, stupid.’ The first thing Republicans need to do is say what’s their jobs program? You have nine-and-a-half percent unemployment. You have 30% of Americans worried that they may lose their job.” Gingrich favors a series of tax cuts designed to create jobs.
The second thing, Gingrich said, is a Republican plan for real health care reforms beginning with the elimination of the $70 to $120 billion a year in Medicare and Medicaid fraud. Getting the fraud out would, in his estimation, pay for everything that needs to be done.
Gingrich believes that the Democrats aren’t going to get far by insulting and ignoring the Obamacare opponents. “You’d think that Pelosi might go home and listen to the 53% of her district who voted [in the California referendum] against higher spending and higher taxes. But my sense is that they’re so insulated, sitting around in left-wing fundraisers and talking to left-wing lobbyists and left-wing PAC representatives they don’t realize what’s happening in the country.”
But do the congressional Republicans? This is a moment of opportunity they could easily miss. In 1992 and again in 2008, Republicans lost the independents and “Reagan Democrats” because they didn’t listen to those voices. If they listen now, and act on principle with enthusiasm and energy, this could be the beginning of the Second Reagan Revolution.