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

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

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Ed Miliband and David Cameron  

Cameron and Miliband should have faith in their bolder policies

Ian Birrell
Andreas Lubitz runs the Airport Race half marathon in Hamburg on 13 September 2009  

Being sensitive to mental health need not lead us to downplay the horror of what Lubitz did

Will Gore
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing