It struck me as I was buying cupcakes for my wife’s birthday.
If you understand the sudden rise in popularity of the cupcake, you will understand why the president’s health care bill has lost so much steam.
The cupcake is indicative of the on-demand world we live in.
If you bring a variety of cupcakes to a party, you will be greeted as the conquering hero for one simple reason. You are giving the partygoers the power to choose.
The American consumer these days demands that power to choose.
They demand it with their favorite television shows. Cable television provides hundreds of different channels, and the smart cable network provides consumers the ability to get the programming they want when they want it.
They provide consumers the power to choose because if they didn’t, the customers would just go to the Internet and find their favorite shows on Hulu or in other places.
But the on-demand world doesn’t just apply to television. It applies to mobile devices, whether it is the iPhone, the newest BlackBerry or the dozens of other choices that are out there.
This on-demand world is spreading quickly. People are demanding the power to select how they are entertained, how they work, how they eat, how they play.
Most of the private sector gets this new dynamic, and they are rushing in to find ways to make the consumer happy.
One place that doesn’t understand this and can’t seemingly adapt is the government. While the average American consumer is demanding more power to control their own fates, our political system, especially as run by the Democrats, is pushing for more government control.
The president’s health care plan puts government in more control of health care spending for the average American consumer. Democrats in the Congress are actually targeting programs like Medicare advantage, which were created to give consumers more control.
Instead of ending health care monopolies in the states, the Democratic plan actually requires the uninsured to enroll in them. Instead of giving more power to consumers to shop for the health care insurance, and thereby give the consumers more power to hold down costs, the president’s plan puts faith in the government’s power to bring down costs.
The problem with that strategy is that nobody believes that the government can do the job. The federal bureaucracy is lost in an on-demand world. The idea of customer service is so foreign to most bureaucrats that members of Congress have to spend a significant portion of their office budgets on caseworkers whose sole job is to bird-dog the bureaucrats on behalf of the constituents.
Our political system doesn’t lend itself particularly well to this on-demand world, either. An on-demand world makes obsolete binary choices. The political system demands a binary choice. People want the kind of representation that they want and they are not satisfied with the compromises that come from voting for one of two parties.
Voters believe that the politicians aren’t listening to them. While that is not exactly true (The politicians are listening to everybody and having a hard time discerning what they should be doing), there is plenty of reason to believe that is the case. Those politicians, confused by the many voices, retreat to old ideologies and rely on silly sound-bites as way to cope with the cacophony of disparate voices.
The political system is under intense stress. That is obvious. Approval ratings for Congress remain abysmal, and voters are mad as hell and don’t want to take it anymore.
But the demands of the voters reflect their personal desires and not some great call for unified action. The president thought he had a mandate to radically change the country, so he set out to put government in control of the health care industry, the energy industry, the banking industry and the auto industry.
The people rebelled, and sent a strong message to the president that they wanted the power to decide their own futures. They don’t want him to make those choices for them.
The people want change for their better. By that, they mean they want a government that reflects the realities of the on-demand world. Instead, what the president has promised them is more government and less personal control over their fates.
Politicians, by their very natures, would rather take power than give it back to the voters. But that doesn’t work very well in this on-demand world. Cupcakes do work well in an on-demand world. The president’s health care bill? Not so much.
John Feehery is president of the Feehery Group, a strategic advocacy firm dedicated to helping its clients achieve their legislative and communications objectives in Washington, D.C. He is also a frequent commentator on the political landscape, widely quoted around the country and often seen on such television programs as CNN’s The Situation Room, MSNBC’s Hardball, and Bloomberg Television’s Money and Politics. He is also a contributor to The Hill’s “Pundits Blog.”