Dems' Bets Starting to Pay Off By Luke Perry
Senate Republicans repeatedly outsmarted Democrats during the Obama administration and beyond, as I’ve written about, but some long term legislative calculations of the Democrats are now materializing.
First, the Democrats bet long ago that The Affordable Care Act (ACA) may face popular resistance upfront, but would be embraced over time, making it very difficult for Republicans to cut protections and benefits. In the last few months, a majority of Americans supported the ACA (as a whole, not just its parts) for the first time, while the law is much more popular than the Republican’s American Healthcare Act, and is even more popular than President Trump.
The Republican controlled Senate will likely not pass the House healthcare bill and may not pass any healthcare legislation. Mitch McConnell, the mastermind of most Republican accomplishments over the past several years, has acknowledged he does not have the votes. Some Senators, such as Jeff Flake (R-AZ), have publicly shared their doubts that Republicans can reform healthcare.
Meanwhile, House Republicans from moderate districts are on the defensive for their votes since the Congressional Budget Office scored the bill in similarly problematic terms compared to the first, unsuccessful version of the bill. All this reflects what Democrats expected and hoped once the ACA was fully implemented.
A second example involves the Paris Climate Accord. Of course, Democrats did not expect Donald Trump to become president and bring his “America First” inspired isolationism to the White House. Seeking to dismantle this landmark accord from what Democrats perceive as a dated, anti-science perspective will only fuel unprecedented grassroots enthusiasm against Trump and the GOP.
The procedural elements of withdrawal, designed by the Obama administration, delay this from actually happening until after the 2020 election. This ensures U.S. involvement for years, though Trump’s decision undeniably has numerous internal and external consequences.
Still, the accord may contribute to 2020 (even more than 2018) being a wave election. One challenge for Democrats in 2016 was replicating high voter turnout of millennials compared to 2012 and 2008. Millennials are much more in line with Barack Obama’s thinking on climate change than Scott Pruitt, even young Republicans.
Oddly enough, the Democrats are now turning to federalism to resist the Trump administration as Mikhail Bushinski suggested here months ago. Cities and states continue on the Paris path while Trump drew criticism from many prominent corporations and business leaders, a dominant constituency of his.
So as Democrats process disappointment, concern, and outrage, it’s worth briefly noting these two long term tactical successes of the Obama presidency. The main challenge for liberals moving forward is how to effectively channel this passion into electoral success, particularly in states and localities, which involves a challenging numbers game of mobilizing voters, not just displaying dissatisfaction in the streets.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Professor of Government at Utica College. His column Sound Off! critiques various aspects of presidential politics.