The US healthcare problem was always cooking

I heard a fantastic lecture recently (and I recommend it if you have a spare 90 minutes you listen here) on the subject of Barack Obama by Professor Mick Cox who is in the department of International Relations at the London School of Economics.

The presentation is not terribly revelatory (it isn’t meant to be), but what Cox does very well is contextualise the events which took place, and this is done with his inimicable wit.

It cannot be stressed enough how severly popular Obama was, and surprising it was given the ticket with which he was running; a black president is one thing, but at a heightened time of US patriotism and war is quite another notion that caught Cox’s eye.

There is one caveat. Remember at the time Obama seemed to signify the saviourhood for every group that felt penialised; for Mexicans, despite usually being Catholic conservative and anti-abortion, voted in force for Obama. The socialist/liberal/left saw in Obama a revolutionary streak that gave appeal to the Democrats rather than wellmeaning fringe parties (such was the problem with Al Gore’s election loss, though, of course, Ralph Nader will tell you different). And also from the right, Wall Street voting trends took to voting Obama, Colin Powell cut ties with his party and that once hardcore Hegelian neo-liberal Francis Fukuyama put the final touches to destroying his illusion that libertarianism would be the final stage in history.

Celebrations all round, but this is all enough to see a problem. Obama running on a broad centre-left ticket with major support (and unbelievable amounts of funding) from those with natural centre-right tendencies. Its hardly surprising that today’s healthcare reform troubles have taken effect in the states.

Cox’ lecture is slightly before the Hannan incident and the complete uproar that took place, but certainly the mood change had registered with him. It was necessary to remember that even with Obama’s majority and initial popularity, the administration had to be prepared to engage in a war of ideas – even if attitudes were not necessarily in their court.

Though not from a naturally sympathetic source, Fred Barnes of Fox News has suggested plausible figures that Democrat popularity has slumped over recent weeks (now down to 49%) while the Republicans – who have gone all out on the issue of healthcare, even at the expense of sanity as with the case of Sarah Palin and her bellowing calls of ‘death panels’ – have stayed put at a consistent 40%.

Encouraging as it is that the Democrats still lead significantly, trends reveal that they might be losing the argument. I can’t help being pessimisstic about the whole situation, but the problem has been cooking since many voters – who usually have their houses on the right – felt that Obama was in debt to them, now they want their political currency back. And since one can find an infinite amount of problems with suggesting that the Singapore style is better for the world than the NHS, or that death panels determining the fate of the American public is the only possible alternative to leaving that decision in the hands of the invisible hand of circumstance, and with the soundness of the pro-reform Democrat argument, I’m sceptical of whether Obama’s efforts will amount to anything in the short-term. Unfortunately, it looks as though the plans will have to be shelved like Hillary Clinton’s plans were during Bill’s attempt at reshaping healthcare.

This is no slur on the Democrat side of the argument – plain to see that there are huge problems that such a huge, rich nation, should deny all its inhabitants free health care – but a large portion of the public have been struck dumb by dumb ideas. Given the landscape of Obama’s vote, a problem was bound to pop up at some point, and this is it.

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