Democrats are afraid of failure & nervous about what success could bring. They fear substantial losses in November.
As the final round of the battle over health-care reform begins Sunday, President Obama and the Democrats are in reach of a historic legislative achievement that has eluded presidents dating back a century. The question is at what cost.
By almost any measure, enactment of comprehensive health-care legislation would rank as one of the most significant pieces of social welfare legislation in the country's history, a goal set as far back as the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and pursued since by many other presidents. But unlike Social Security or Medicare, Obama's health-care bill would pass over the Republican Party's unanimous opposition.
The lengthy and rancorous debate has inflicted considerable damage on the president and his party.
Democrats are afraid of failure and nervous about what success could bring. They fear substantial losses in November, with their majorities in the House and Senate possibly at risk if the country turns even more negative toward the administration and its policies.
Regardless of the political fallout, historians say health-care reform will take its place in the same category as the enactment of Social Security in 1935 and Medicare in 1965, and only a rung or two below passage of the major civil rights bills of the 1950s and 1960s.
[T]here is a major difference between this health-care battle and the debates that preceded passage of Social Security and Medicare. Although there was opposition to those measures -- conservative opponents called Medicare socialized medicine -- in the end they passed with overwhelming, bipartisan majorities.
The House approved the Medicare bill on a vote of 313 to 115, including 65 Republicans -- nearly half the GOP caucus at the time. The Senate approved the measure by 68 to 21, including 13 of the 27 Republicans.
Social Security passed the House in 1935 by 372 to 77. On that vote, 77 Republicans joined the majority and 18 Republicans opposed it. In the Senate, the vote was 77 to 6, with five of 19 Republicans in opposition.
[T]he health-care battle has divided the country in ways that the Medicare debate of the 1960s did not. One reason is that partisanship and political polarization are measurably worse today. Another factor is that trust in government is far lower than in the 1960s. Finally, the political parties are far more homogenous, particularly the Republican Party, whose members decidedly identify themselves as conservative or very conservative.