By Robert A. Vella

In 2009, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman – an independent who caucused with the Democrats – threatened to filibuster President Obama’s Affordable Care Act bill if it included a public insurance option as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.  Since the procedural vote count to override a filibuster in the U.S. Senate appeared very close, Democratic leaders decided to remove that provision to appease the renegade politician.

The legislation was finally approved by a vote of 60-39 with one senator abstaining.  After Republicans won a stunning and overwhelming victory in the 2010 midterm elections, they have continually attempted to undermine and repeal Obamacare using every available tactic.  Now, with President Trump’s executive order, the serious ramifications of the Democrats’ failure to pass a public option back then are plainly obvious.

Had Obama and Democratic leaders vigorously pushed for a public option, which they certainly didn’t, it might have passed.  In that event, the very people likely to suffer most from Trump’s executive order would now have a viable alternative.  Instead, those folks will be forced to pay much higher health insurance premiums and costs while possibly losing some important medical benefits and safeguards they currently possess.  Furthermore, the projected disruption of the marketplace from Trump’s move will probably motivate some insurers to abandon certain markets altogether leaving untold numbers of people without any health insurance whatsoever.

Hindsight is always 20/20, and the Democrats’ practical considerations in 2009 are understandable.  However, the healthcare debate over the ACA bill opened ideological fissures within the party which only grew wider with time.  Today, the rebellion of young people and progressives against the Democratic leadership has weakened the party so dramatically that its effective power has fallen to the lowest point since the 1920s.

In politics, as in war, strategic success comes from knowing which battles to fight and how to fight.  In every endeavor, what might be gained must be measured against what might be lost.  Sometimes, ultimate victory can be achieved through tactical defeat;  and, vice versa.  Had Democrats demanded the public option and lost the 2009 vote, they would’ve gained something far more lasting – the support from those now in exodus.  Had they demanded the public option and still won the 2009 vote, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today.

Further reading:

Pro-Trump states most affected by his health care decision

Ending insurance subsidies hurts middle class most

Trump Took a Dagger to Obamacare. Can it Survive?

U.S. states plan suit to block Trump Obamacare subsidies cut

12 thoughts on “How Democrats could’ve preempted Trump’s sabotage of Obamacare

  1. It’s a tough one. Republicans would have no problem sitting back and waiting for the pain to reach the voters. Dems, not so much. Their counterstrike should include so many “left” provisions (“do this and we might help you…”) that the GOP can’t committ, therefore owning the mess they have just created.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it really comes down to the dichotomy between ideology and pragmatism. Republicans are strongly ideological and therefore have difficulty with the realities of governing. Democrats – in recent decades – are quite practical about government but their weak ideology leads to disillusionment and dissent among their ranks. That is why I equated these political dynamics to warfare. To be successful, one must be both exceptionally aware and skilled in the art.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Surely they have someone who can see the Sun Tzu way? This situation is horrid, people will be hurt, but we’re only really looking at, what, 12-odd months until midterms. The strategic goal must be getting some sort of universal healthcare through, and that requires winning back the chambers, and shutting Trump down (but keeping him there until 2020).

        Trump can’t see long-term, and that is an enormous strategic opportunity.

        Liked by 1 person

        • You are correct, my learned friend. The 2018 midterms would be an enormous strategic opportunity for Democrats under normal circumstances. Unfortunately, the circumstances in America today are far from normal. We have an electorate pushed rightward by economic angst, xenophobia, and left-wing defections. We have an opposition party fundamentally at odds with itself. We have a growing mass of institutional barriers to democracy and civic participation. We have a monumental failure of education. We have cultural polarization on a historic scale. We have a very sick nation.

          Please excuse my negativity, but there is little to be hopeful about over here these days.

          Liked by 1 person

        • I can appreciate that. Agent Orange did more outrageous (inexcusable/mindless) things in the last 7 days than Obama, Bush, Clinton did in their 24-collective years.

          But I assure you, from one looking in from the outside, there is an enormous opportunity waiting to be taken.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Democrats still lack the fortitude to take a stand. Of course, it might just be about the money. These days any act or failure to act by our elected representatives seems less motivated by political acumen than by simple avarice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The typical behavior in modern society of a lack of long term vision combined with blind greed is having deadly ramifications.

    Maybe long term thinking now would be to help trump Inc. destroy the GOP, allow the democrats to implode and create an actual liberal party with compassion for people from the broken pieces of both corporate parties. Who knows? It’s extremely difficult to think about what has happened to this country and remain peaceful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Rcooley123's Blog and commented:
    Excellent analysis of the effects of not including the Public Option when passing the Affordable Care Act. At this point, it appears more important than ever to push for single-payer, universal coverage health care, as opposed to what the GOP and our illustrious President appear determined to thrust upon us through legislation and/or executive order. – RJC

    Liked by 1 person

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