Clashes between leaders in the Democratic Party are rarely reported by the press, which regularly points out even the slightest disagreement among Republicans as a sign that the GOP is crumbling before our very eyes.
That wasn't the case on Tuesday, when New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsal asked if ObamaCare is destroying the Democratic Party because that “redistribution scheme has angered and alienated working-class and middle-class Americans.”
Edsal began his missive by stating that “Charles Schumer, the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate, has forced a debate over fundamental party priorities out into the open. Should Democrats focus primarily on the problems of the poor, or should they first address the economic struggles of the working and middle classes?”
In a speech at the National Press Club on Nov. 25, the New York senator explained that “Obama and his party suffered defeat last month in large part because of the strategic decision to press for enactment of the Affordable Care Act soon after Obama won the presidency in 2009, when Democrats had full control of Congress and the White House.”
Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem: health-care reform.
Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs. ... This makes sense considering that 85 percent of all Americans got their health care from either the government -- Medicare or Medicaid -- or their employer. And if health-care costs were going up, it didn’t really affect them.
Examining the situation from a purely political viewpoint, Schumer stated: “Only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010, only about 40 percent of those registered voted,” or “only five percent of the electorate.”
“To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense,” the senator indicated. “So when Democrats focused on health care, the average middle-class person thought the Democrats are not paying enough attention to 'me.'”
Edsal then claimed that “Schumer’s remarks set off an explosion.” One terse response came from Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the House, who replied in a written statement: "We come here to do a job, not keep a job. There are more than 14 million reasons why that's wrong," she said, referring to the number of people who supposedly now have health-care coverage since the Affordable Care Act became law.
“The views of Democratic advocates of ObamaCare notwithstanding,” Edsal noted, “public opinion has generally sided with Schumer.”
“The only way for Democratic Party leaders to stop the hemorrhaging, in Schumer’s view, is to take on the task of using the government to intervene in the private sector, pushing to raise wages and revive job opportunities for working men and women,” the columnist wrote.
However, “the American public is so cynical about government that a Democratic, pro-government message would not be immediately successful,” Edsal noted. The first step in restoring credibility, Schumer argued, is to “convince voters that we are on their side, and not in the grips of special interests.”
“By shifting the public focus to the party’s pro-work and pro-wage policies, Schumer wants to transform the negative association of the Democratic Party with ObamaCare,” the columnist asserted.
“Insofar as Democrats try to reduce hostility to ObamaCare, they face two problems,” he stated. “The first is a Republican Party unwilling to support any legislation” making the program more palatable.
“The other is the danger that tinkering with any of the provisions which have provoked the strongest opponents could … eviscerate the legislation” by removing several taxes that would force the government to find other sources of revenue.
As if Democrats do not already have enough trouble, data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that “many, if not most, of the seven million people who purchased insurance through the A.C.A. will either have to pay higher premiums or higher deductibles, or submit themselves to the complex process of switching plans.”
“Even though midterm elections favor Republicans, the 2014 results show middle- and working-class dissatisfaction with the Democratic Party rising to dangerous levels, which threatens the party’s growing demographic advantages,” he stated.
“Perhaps most notably, Republican House candidates in 2014 won 37 percent of the Hispanic vote,” the columnist added, and a “slight majority, 51-49, of Asian-American voters, who had been moving decisively in the Democrats' favor.”
So can the Democratic Party survive Barack Obama's “signature legislation” and once again combine voting minorities into a winning majority? Or will the party's plan for victory by demographics implode? We'll probably find out during the 2016 election.