More than a few thoughtful political observers think Barack Obama’s health care reform success secures the place of his presidency in history. Here are three:
Now that it’s done, Barack Obama will go down in history as one of America’s finest presidents. It’s always possible of course that, like LBJ, he’ll get involved in some unrelated fiasco that mars his reputation. But fundamentally, he’s reshaped the policy landscape in a way that no progressive politician has done in decades.
Yes, in the end, he got all the primary delegates House votes he needed. Yes, he worked our last nerve to get there. But, yes, too, this is an important victory – the first true bloodied, grueling revelation that his persistence, another critical Obama quality, finally paid off in the presidency. He could have given up weeks ago, as the punditry advised (because they seem to have no grasp of substance and mere addiction to hour-to-hour political plays). But he refused. That took courage. And relentlessness.
Let me offer a ludicrously premature opinion: Barack Obama has sealed his reputation as a president of great historical import. We don’t know what will follow in his presidency, and it’s quite possible that some future event–a war, a scandal–will define his presidency. But we do know that he has put his imprint on the structure of American government in a way that no Democratic president since Lyndon Johnson has.
The last two generations have no model for such a president. The only two other Democratic presidents of the last four decades are Jimmy Carter, a failure, and Bill Clinton, who enjoyed modest successes but failed in his most significant legislative fight. Obama, who helped pull the country out of a depression and reshaped the health care system, has already accomplished far more than Clinton. (This isn’t necessarily Clinton’s fault–he lacked the votes to break a Republican filibuster that Obama has–but the historical convention is to judge a president by what he and the Congress achieve together.) He will never be plausibly compared with Jimmy Carter.
Historians will see this health care bill as a masterfully crafted piece of legislation. Obama and the Democrats managed to bring together most of the stakeholders and every single Senator in their party. The new law law untangles the dysfunctionalities of the individual insurance market while fulfilling the political imperative of leaving the employer-provided system in place.
And here’s David Frum on why the Republicans will not, even if they were to take over both houses of Congress in the November 2010 midterm elections, overturn Barack Obama’s legislative victory Sunday night:
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible.