Health care support will only grow
Week after week, many Republicans continue to deny the merits of President Barack Obama's health care reform legislation. More generally, Republicans reject any role for government in securing positive rights such as health care.
However, what Republicans cannot deny nor reject is that the recently passed piece of health care legislation is very likely to significantly alter the political landscape of our great nation in a manner that is detrimental to the Republican Party. The author of Thursday's letter, "Health care bill leads nowhere," may claim that his opposition to what many rabid Republicans pejoratively label "Obamacare" stems from a fear that our nation is headed "toward a European welfare state, with higher taxes, higher deficits, high unemployment and depressed economic growth." However, the reason that most Republican intellectuals continue to fight against the health care reform legislation is because they realize that it marks the close of the era of former President Ronald Reagan.
In a March 24 letter, a Republican supporter claimed that "the majority opposes this bill, not the minority." By sharing such lies, Republicans are attempting to spread fear and instill a sense of hopelessness because they hope to hold on to their ever diminishing grip on Washington, D.C., which has diminished as quickly as their grip on reality itself. Indeed, a USA Today/Gallup Poll, which was also released on March 24 – the same day as said letter – found that 49 percent of Americans now see health care reform as "a good thing" while 40 percent do not. A plurality of Americans now supports the bill despite the reality that many of the more substantive benefits that American citizens will receive because of the bill will not be implemented until several years from now.
This high level of support that has already emerged will grow as we move forward, and as Americans continue to receive more and more benefits because of the bill. Despite their claims that Obama is out to steal your guns, kidnap your grandmother, and then shoot your grandmother with the guns that he has confiscated from you, Republican intellectuals are actually quite intelligent. Have you ever wondered why many New Deal and Great Society social welfare programs are still in existence today? It is because the vast majority of Americans have reaped the benefits of such government aid, and they appreciate it.
The American National Election Study, which is a nationally representative public opinion survey that is conducted every four years, consistently finds that more than 80 percent of all Americans support spending on Social Security and Medicare. And it is for that reason that Republicans, like former President George W. Bush, who attempted to privatize Social Security in 2004, fall flat on their faces when they attempt to lessen the extent of these programs. Bush actually ended up expanding Medicare, much to the delight of the elderly, who because of Bush now receive entitlement benefit for prescription drugs through tax breaks and subsidies. As time wears on, it is likely that our new and improved system of providing health to our citizens will find similar levels of support among Americans, making it difficult for Republicans to repeal the reform. That is perhaps why Obama has challenged Republicans to run on a platform of repeal during the upcoming midterm elections. He realizes that such a platform is very unlikely to gain Republicans much political traction.
As many Americans come to see the benefits of the health care reform, they may come to see the Democratic Party in a more favorable light. The Democratic Party found much success at the polls after it steered the nation out of the Great Depression with New Deal programs. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to office for four consecutive terms, and between 1933 and 1981, which is when the Reagan era began, five of eight presidents hailed from the Democratic Party. As time passes, Democrats may come to be seen as the party who granted Americans with a right to decent and affordable health care, while Republicans, who refused to collaborate, will be seen as the party of "no."
Considering that their forecasts of death panels and socialism may just seem a bit over the top a year from now, they may also be considered the party of senselessness and lunacy as well. As these more substantive pieces of the legislation begin to benefit Americans, the Democratic Party's voter base will grow, and the Republicans will lose any gains that they made in 2010 midterm elections as voters begin to see the benefits of health care reform.
During the 2008 presidential election, Obama vaguely offered "change that we could believe in." With the implementation of health care reform, he has delivered just that. The bell now tolls for Reaganites as the Reagan era draws to a close. The plurality of Americans who support this health care legislation today will grow into an overwhelming majority tomorrow, and this will threaten the political viability of Republicans and provide Democrats with political capital for years to come.
Ben West is a Rutgers College senior majoring in political science. He can be reached at benwest - at - eden.rutgers.edu.