Mar 8th 2010

Memo to Republicans: Want to Vote Against Health Care Reform? -- Go Ahead, Make My Day

by Robert Creamer

Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist and author of the recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on

Over the last several weeks various pundits - and Republican talkers - have fanned out across the airwaves to proclaim that Democrats face grave political danger this fall if they are so bold as to pass health care reform in the face of united Republican opposition.
For Congressional Democrats, the source of this advice should be enough to make it completely suspect. And in fact, history shows that just the opposite is true - and many Republicans know it.

Republicans do not win when Democrats are successful at making fundamental progressive change. They win when they stop Democrats from making fundamental progressive change.

As a progressive Democrat, I would be thrilled if every Republican votes against a health care reform bill that passes Congress and is signed into law by the President, since history shows they will pay a steep price for their united opposition to progressive change.

All you need to do is look at the last century of American politics. When has the modern Democratic Party been most successful? When it delivered on fundamental progressive change.
After Roosevelt delivered Social Security, the right of unions to organize, the regulation of Wall Street through the SEC, the reorganization of the banking system and FDIC, public works programs, and by massively increasing the share of taxes paid by the very rich, Democrats maintained huge margins in Congress and the Presidency for two decades. They also lay the foundation for the most robust period of economic growth in the history of humanity.
When President Johnson and the Democratic Congress passed Medicare and Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty - and later the Democratic Congress created the EPA -- Democrats had majorities in the House for three and a half decades that outlasted the conservative Reagan revolution of the 1980s by 14 years.

It wasn't until 1994 - largely because of the failure of Congress to pass the Clinton health care reform plan - that Republicans gained control of the House.

Why do Democrats do so well when they make fundamental progressive change? Because those policies benefit the vast majority of the voters rather than the tiny super-wealthy minority - the top 2% of the population - that are the chief beneficiaries of Republican status quo economic policies.

Ask any senior, or person with a disability, how they feel about Medicare and Social Security - policies that were passed by Democrats and opposed tooth and nail by Republicans. Even some Tea Party activists carry around signs that read: "Hands Off My Medicare." Ask most everyday Americans how they feel about child labor laws, or the minimum wage, or the Food and Drug Administration that protects consumers from unsafe food and medicines. Ask any consumer how she feels about the Federal Trade Commission, or federal laws that protect us from unsafe products. Ask anyone who breathes how they feel about laws that cleaned up our air and water.
Ask virtually anyone in America how they feel about public education - or a woman's right to vote.
All of these fundamental changes in American society were fought by the conservatives of the time, and once passed they all came to define the high political ground.

Americans are not disgusted with Washington today because of the bold initiatives it is considering. They are disgusted, in considerable measure, because it appears gridlocked and unable to deal with the problems confronting the nation, and their stagnant standard of living. They are tired of politicians who see politics as a "gotcha" game instead of a way to deal with the problems and opportunities that confront their families. They hate the idea that their political leaders are in bed with Wall Street, the oil companies and the insurance giants - that campaign contributors have more sway than the voters.

They want decisive action to make fundamental change every bit as much as they did when they elected Barack Obama a little over a year ago.

When Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) said last year that Republicans could make the defeat of health care reform "Obama's Waterloo," he understood that it was great politics for Republicans to prevent fundamental reform, not the opposite.

If, once it is passed and signed into law, the Republicans want to campaign to repeal health care reform I say, go ahead, make my day.

As a Democrat, I love our odds if we can campaign against Republicans who voted against allowing ordinary Americans to have the right to buy the same kind of health care that is available to Members of Congress.

Something like: "Republican Congressman Mark Kirk is happy to let the government pay for his health care, but Congressman Kirk voted against requiring that ordinary Americans be eligible to buy the same health insurance as Members of Congress.
Congressman Kirk may enjoy being an important Member of Congress, but when it comes to his health care, he should be no better than the rest of us."

When Congressman Roy Blunt runs for the Senate in Missouri this fall, I can't wait to see ads like:

"When it came to health insurance reform, Congressman Roy Blunt knew which side he was on.
Blunt voted against reining in the power of health insurance companies to raise rates - by thirty nine … fifty… even sixty percent.

He voted to oppose preventing insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

He opposed requiring that insurance companies spend at least 80% of our premiums on medical care instead of CEO salaries, lobbyists, exploding profits, and armies of bureaucrats that do nothing but deny claims.

In fact, Congressman Blunt stood up for the insurance companies every time he had a chance. Isn't it time we had someone who stands up for us?"

The pundits who are blathering on that passing the health care bill is bad politics for Democrats either don't know what they're talking about, or are running a deliberate misinformation campaign to persuade swing Democrats to vote no.
Democrats are already subject to whatever down side they will get for voting for health care reform. That isn't going to change. But if they pass the bill they will get a big up side for actually delivering change.

And Democrats in Congress can't be confused that the voters will "punish" them for "jamming the bill through" or other procedural issues. First, it is impossible to "jam the bill through" with a majority vote. That's what we do in a democracy - a majority rules. We believe in up or down votes.

But just as important, no one ever votes based on "procedural" issues - or even remembers them. Who knows or cares what procedures were used to pass Medicare or Social Security. What people care about is the impact policies have on their lives - not procedural bickering.
One of the reasons the public support for "health care reform" in general has dropped is the focus of news stories on the procedural "sausage making" of Congress. The voters still strongly support the components of reform, and those are the questions that will be issues in the upcoming election.

The fact is that when Democrats act boldly to pass fundamental progressive change, we win. That's why changing the Senate filibuster rule is fundamentally good for Progressives. Some say, "Oh wait until the Republicans are in the majority, then you'll wish you had a filibuster to stop their policies." The problem is that we are the party of change, and they are the party of the status quo. We win when we have the ability to make fundamental change. They win by stopping us. In addition, it turns out that when we actually make change, we don't lose our majorities.

Sunday's New York Times ran a story about Obama Senior Adviser David Axelrod. It was part of a continuing analysis by the media attempting to place "blame" on various members of the Obama inner circle for the difficulty of creating fundamental change.

In general, I find these stories irritating for two reasons. First, they ignore the real reason why it has taken longer than hoped to pass health care reform, climate change legislation, financial reform and immigration reform: real change is hard to do. When you take on the wealthiest vested interests in America they don't just give up. They pressure members of Congress, they lie to the public -- they do everything in their power to stop reform dead in its tracks.

Second, these critiques generally rely on the opinions of a pundit chattering class in Washington that has never run a political or issue campaign, much less made fundamental change. These pundits are rarely held responsible when their predictions or analysis turns out to be completely off-base. And often they behave like the little schools of fish you see in the shallow waters at the seashore: the entire school turns on a dime - first going this way, then another - all as a group. Like the little fish, that kind of "schooling" mentality may help them protect them within the safety of the pack - but it does nothing to promote accurate analysis or political insight.
David Axelrod is one of the most accomplished political and message strategists of our era. Along with David Plouffe, he crafted the best-run presidential campaign in American history. He happens to also be dedicated to fundamental progressive change.

Axelrod doesn't always get it right, any more than anyone who is actually in the arena trying to make change happen. But I'd trust our success at making that change - the strategy for making that change - to David Axelrod any time compared to virtually any of his critics.
The political problem facing Democrats in the Mid-term elections has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of leadership from people like David Axelrod. It has everything to do with actually delivering change.

In the next two weeks, Democrats in Congress must come together and pass health care reform.

Robert Creamer's recent book: "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win," available on

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Apr 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Some presidents indulge in the “Mount Rushmore syndrome” making an obvious effort to achieve greatness. Normally soft-spoken and apparently modest Biden is making his own bid for immortality."
Apr 9th 2021
EXTRACT: "New ways of thinking about the role of government are as important as new priorities. Many commentators have framed Biden’s infrastructure plan as a return to big government. But the package is spread over eight years, will raise public spending by only one percentage point of GDP, and is projected to pay for itself eventually. A boost in public investment in infrastructure, the green transition, and job creation is long overdue."
Apr 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " One can, and perhaps should, take the optimistic view that moral panics in the US blow over; reason will once again prevail. It could be that the Biden era will take the sting out of Trumpism, and the tolerance for which American intellectual life has often been admired will be reinvigorated. This might even happen while the noxious effects of American influence still rage in other countries. For the sake of America and the world, one can only hope it happens soon.  "
Mar 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "By refusing (despite having some good reasons) to end electoral gerrymandering, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., has directly enabled the paralyzing hyper-partisanship that reached its nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency. By striking down all limits on corporate spending on political campaigns in the infamous 2010 Citizens United decision, he has helped to entrench dark money in US politics. And by gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder, Roberts has facilitated the racist voter-suppression tactics now being pursued in many Republican-controlled states."
Mar 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "the UK’s tough choices accumulate, and the problems lurking around the corner look menacing. Britain will have to make the best of Brexit. But it will be a long, hard struggle, all the more so with an evasive fabulist in charge."
Mar 15th 2021
EXTRACT: "Over the years, the approach of most American policymakers toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been Israel-centric with near total disregard for the suffering endured by the Palestinian people. The architects of policy in successive US administrations have discussed the conflict as if the fate of only one party (Israel) really mattered. Israelis were treated as full human beings with hopes and fears, while Palestinians were reduced to a problem that needed to be solved so that Israelis could live in peace and security.  ..... It is not just that Israelis and Palestinians haven’t been viewed with an equal measure of concern. It’s worse than that. It appears that Palestinians were judged as less ​human than Israelis, and were, therefore, not entitled to make demands to have their rights recognized and protected."
Mar 8th 2021
EXTRACTS: "XThere’s a global shortage in semiconductors, and it’s becoming increasingly serious." ...... "The automotive sector has been worst affected by the drought, in an era where microchips now form the backbone of most cars. Ford is predicting a 20% slump in production and Tesla shut down its model 3 assembly line for two weeks. In the UK, Honda was forced to temporarily shut its plant as well." ..... " As much as 70% of the world’s semiconductors are manufactured by just two companies, Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC) and Samsung."
Mar 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Back in 1992, Lawrence H. Summers, then the chief economist at the World Bank, and I warned that pushing the US Federal Reserve’s annual inflation target down from 4% to 2% risked causing big problems. Not only was the 4% target not producing any discontent, but a 2% target would increase the risk of the Fed’s interest-rate policy hitting the zero lower bound. Our objections went unheeded. Fed Chair Alan Greenspan reduced the inflation target to 2%, and we have been paying for it ever since. I have long thought that many of our economic problems would go away if we could rejigger asset markets in such a way as to make a 5% federal funds rate consistent with full employment in the late stage of a business cycle."
Mar 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Under these conditions, the Fed is probably worried that markets will instantly crash if it takes away the punch bowl. And with the increase in public and private debt preventing the eventual monetary normalization, the likelihood of stagflation in the medium term – and a hard landing for asset markets and economies – continues to increase."
Mar 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Massive fiscal and monetary stimulus programs in the United States and other advanced economies are fueling a raging debate about whether higher inflation could be just around the corner. Ten-year US Treasury yields and mortgage rates are already climbing in anticipation that the US Federal Reserve – the de facto global central bank – will be forced to hike rates, potentially bursting asset-price bubbles around the world. But while markets are probably overstating short-term inflation risks for 2021, they do not yet fully appreciate the longer-term dangers."
Feb 28th 2021
EXTRACT: "To be sure, calls to “build back better” from the pandemic imply some awareness of the need for systemic change. But the transformation we need extends beyond constructing modern infrastructure or unlocking private investment in any one country. We need to re-orient – indeed, re-invent – global politics, so that countries can cooperate far more effectively in creating a better world."
Feb 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "So, notwithstanding the predictable release of pent-up demand for consumer durables, face-to-face services show clear evidence – in terms of both consumer demand and employment – of permanent scarring. Consequently, with the snapback of pent-up demand for durables nearing its point of exhaustion, the recovery of the post-pandemic US economy is likely to fall well short of vaccine development’s “warp speed.” "
Feb 20th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human rights abuses under Erdogan are beyond the pale of inhumanity and moral decadence. The list of Erdogan’s violations and cruelty is too long to numerate. The detention and horrifying torture of thousands of innocent people for months and at times for years, without being charged, is hard to fathom. Many prisoners are left languishing in dark cells, often in solitary confinement. The detention of tens of thousands of men and hundreds of women, many with their children, especially following the 2016 failed coup, has become common. It is calculated to inflict horrendous pain and suffering to bring the prisoners to the breaking point, so that they confess to crimes they have never committed."
Feb 20th 2021
Courtyard of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange, circa 1670, (Job Adriaenszoon Berckheyde).
Feb 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "Global regulators will no doubt be concerned about a potential volatility spillover from digital asset prices into traditional capital markets. They may not permit what could quickly amount to effective proxy approval by the back door for companies holding large proportions of a volatile asset on their balance sheets."
Feb 11th 2021
EXTRACT: "Since Russians began protesting opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s imprisonment, the security forces have apparently had carte blanche to arrest demonstrators – and they have done so by the thousands. If Russians so much as honk their car horns in solidarity with the protesters, they risk personal repercussions. The official response to the protests goes beyond the Kremlin’s past repression. It is war."
Feb 6th 2021
EXTRACT: " Biden, Roosevelt was certainly no revolutionary. His task was to save American capitalism. He was a repairer, a fixer. The New Deal was achieved not because of Roosevelt’s genius or heroism, but because enough people trusted him to act in good faith. That is precisely what people are expecting from Biden, too. He must save US democracy from the ravages of a political crisis. To do so, he must reestablish trust in the system. He has promised to make his country less polarized, and to restore civility and truth to political discourse. In this endeavor, his lack of charisma may turn out to be his greatest strength. For all that he lacks in grandeur, he makes up for by exuding an air of decency."
Feb 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "Europe must not lose sight of the long game, which inevitably will center on China, not Russia or relations with post-Brexit Britain. China is already establishing a presence in Iran, and demonstrating that it has the capital, know-how, and technology to project power and influence beyond its borders. Should it succeed in turning the Belt and Road Initiative into a line of geopolitical stepping-stones, it might soon emerge at Europe’s southeastern border in a form that no one in the EU foresaw."
Jan 29th 2021
EXTRACT: "One sign of this change is that, unlike all recent Democratic administrations, Biden’s hasn’t paid obeisance to Wall Street by giving bankers top jobs. The new Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, is a former Federal Reserve chair and academic who has made it clear that she understands the country’s pressing social needs. Moreover, Biden consulted Warren on her economic views, and has named a former Warren adviser as Yellen’s deputy. Yellen’s appointment demonstrates that Biden shares the insight that enabled Trump’s rise: that too many Americans feel that they cannot get a fair share. "
Jan 24th 2021
EXTRACT: "Barack Obama cautioned in his final speech as president that, “Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” Yet isn’t that exactly what America has been doing? In a decade punctuated by the global financial crisis, the COVID-19 crisis, a racial-justice crisis, an inequality crisis, and now a political crisis, we have only paid lip service to lofty democratic ideals. ... Sadly, this complacency has come at a time of growing fragility for the American experiment. Internet-enabled connectivity is dangerously amplifying an increasingly polarized national discourse in an era of mounting social and political instability. The resulting vulnerability was brought into painfully sharp focus on January 6. The stewardship of democracy is at grave risk. "