Larry Sabato: A moment of truth for the Democrats

Share
Related Topics

As the most crucial day of his young presidency approaches, Barack Obama is privately confident that he will prevail on healthcare reform. He has every reason to be.

The remarkable thing is that Mr Obama's healthcare reform has taken so long, drained so much energy from the majority party, and will pass (if it does) with almost no votes to spare. If the bill falls short, of course, Mr Obama will be forced to rebuild his presidency, much as his Democratic predecessor, Bill Clinton, had to do after his healthcare debacle in the early 1990s.

But even if he does prevail, as he should, the win will be at some cost. Many Americans see the Democrats as ramming reform down their throats despite many polls showing most people do not like the bill.

Still, when a Democratic president demands legislation from a Congress heavily controlled by his party, it is very rare that he doesn't get it. The party leaders will twist every congressional appendage to deliver, even if that means making some members walk the plank in the November elections. They are helped by a bitter memory. When the Clinton reform package dissolved, Democrats paid a huge price – a Republican Congress elected in 1994 that lasted for a dozen years. A few congressmen may have to take one for the team.

The Democrats hope that passage of healthcare will energise a lethargic party base. Low turnout among minorities, the young, and urban voters will doom many Democratic candidates this year.

The party hopes that a promise kept will make the losses less painful. But for some of the 41 members running for re-election who represent districts carried by Republican John McCain in 2008, an affirmative vote on healthcare could end their careers. President Obama will do his best to sell the bill after the fact; he thinks he can turn around public opinion by November. That is an optimistic assessment from a self-assured man.

More likely, Republicans – on their way to a considerable mid-term victory – will begin a campaign for repeal of the bill. Since it will take an all-GOP government to achieve this, the effort will last for years. That suits Republicans just fine since it will motivate their supporters to vote in multiple elections. But what if Americans come to like the new health arrangement? Then Mr Obama and the Democrats will have won the biggest gamble they have taken in decades.



The writer is director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The Lada became a symbol of Russia’s failure to keep up with Western economies  

Our sanctions will not cripple Russia. It is doing a lot of the dirty work itself

Hamish McRae
The Israeli ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has been dubbed ‘Bibi’s brain’  

Israel's propaganda machine is finally starting to misfire

Patrick Cockburn
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz