Democrats have not reacted well to the “shellacking” voters administered to their party at the polls earlier this month. Far from doing any soul searching or introspection of any kind, Democrats embarked on a campaign to rehabilitate their leaders, reelecting Nancy Pelosi to head their now minority House caucus and Harry Reid to lead a reduced Senate contingent.
The leadership brooked no second-guessing of Democrats’ electoral strategy, either, declaring that the message was good and only the party’s delivery was flawed. They consoled themselves by lamenting the voters’ inability to understand just how wonderful four years of Democratic control of Congress had been, and rued their failure to completely and adequately explain the benefits of another two years with Pelosi as speaker.
Democrats’ refusal to spend any time in the wilderness, indeed their refusal to acknowledge the existence of a wilderness, has not served them well as they struggle to gain a foothold from which to spring back to power. The lame-duck session of Congress thus far has resulted in no legislative accomplishments: no deal on extending the Bush tax cuts, no talk of spending cuts, no incentives to create jobs, nothing to acknowledge the voters’ anger and frustration at the way Democrats have run the government.
Instead, the Democrats have wasted time dreaming of bills that will not pass and would enrage most of the country if they did. These bills include the aptly named Dream Act, which would create a backdoor amnesty for young illegal immigrants, an omnibus spending bill, no doubt festooned like a Christmas tree with pork-barrel spending projects and a new START arms-reduction treaty with Russia, which few outside the White House seem to want or think is important and which will certainly not create jobs.
On the political side, Democrats have not fared much better. In their first post-election coordinated assault, Democrats and their media and union hangers-on have taken to haranguing Republican opponents of Obamacare–the passage of which is likely the single biggest reason Democrats will find themselves in the minority next year. New York Rep. Joseph Crowley and 60 of his fellow Democrats sent a letter to the GOP leadership in both houses preemptively calling any member that opposed or campaigned against the government takeover of healthcare a hypocrite if that member signs up for the congressional healthcare plan.
“If your conference wants to deny millions of Americans affordable healthcare, your members should walk that walk,” Crowley wrote. “You cannot enroll in the very kind of coverage that you want for yourselves and then turn around and deny it to Americans who don’t happen to be members of Congress.”
This argument is exactly the kind of rank demagoguery that Americans turned out in droves to vote against on November 2. It has the added problem of being completely inane. It is rooted in the fundamental belief that voters are too stupid to know the difference between government run health care and government provided health insurance.
The federal government, as an employer, pays a premium to third-party providers for healthcare plans to cover members of Congress. The government does not provide the actual care, or make the decisions about coverage. It buys a market-based product and makes it available to its employees and their families. What’s more, Congressmen pay up to 25% of the premium for the coverage they choose.
Acceptance of this job benefit is no more an acceptance of the principle of government-run healthcare by Republican legislators than is acceptance of government censorship by people who check books out from government-run libraries. Would AFSCME, which joined Democrats in this ridiculous line of attack, demand that its members renounce their employer-based coverage if they voted Republican? Should supporters of 1st Amendment rights turn in their library cards? Nonsense.
Of course, Republicans’ votes against Obamacare were actually votes in favor of retaining employer-based healthcare coverage. Democrats know this. Republicans are entirely consistent in signing their families up for whichever health insurance plan they wish. Rather, as is often the case, it is the Democrats who are tainted with the hypocrisy with which they accuse their opponents. If single-payer, government-run healthcare is so much better, Democratic congressmen who support it should show some leadership themselves and renounce their coverage under the federal health benefits plan.
But by far the worst feature of this new Democratic push is that it isn’t even new. Factcheck.org debunked this particular line of attack in 2009. Democrats might have known this too, if, instead of rushing headlong to prop up the leaders who had brought them electoral disaster, they had taken a short walk in the wilderness.