Are Republicans misreading their mandate?

James Delmont Contributor
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Republicans may be misreading their mandate. The rush to dismantle Obamacare could result in an unintended political reality: providing President Obama with just the posture he needs to be reelected. There is much in the new health care bill that the public supports: the end to pre-existing condition exclusion, help for the elderly caught in the infamous “doughnut hole” of Medicare prescription coverage, no dropping of insurance by companies because the bills piled too high, and coverage for dependents through college age. Certain annual checkup and screening procedures are now covered completely whereas previously they were partially covered or excluded. Means-testing for Medicare payment levels also make sense.

With little practical sense and an intellectual’s contempt for public opinion, President Obama and his allies in the Democratic House and Senate bulldozed a vast, complex, government-dominated health care bill through Congress last year. It had the same effect as the failed health care bill of 1993-94, the so-called “Hillarycare” bill, which also greatly expanded the role of government as an overseer of medical care in the United States. As a result, Obama paid the same political price as Bill Clinton, a thumping loss of the House of Representatives and a loss of many Senate seats. Instantly, government was the villain again and business was the victim on the side of the people. The populist pendulum had swung against the Democrats, as it had in the 1980s.

But a closer look at this issue and others (immigration reform, including the Dream Act, and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal) strongly suggests that the Republicans may be in for a pendulum swing of their own, perhaps as early as 2012. Republicans must have a health care bill that retains the popular features of the Obama bill — and the public must know about it. Republican intransigence on gay rights issues, immigration reform, and health care reform may backfire. Younger Americans favor gay marriage and some polls indicate that a small majority of Americans would now accept national civil unions. The repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” did not garner Republican support (8-31 among Senate Republicans and 15-160 among House Republicans). That has been duly noted by gay and lesbian voters, many of whom are fiscal conservatives, investors and homeowners. The overwhelming majority of military jobs are non-combat and gender preference seemed to have no more application there than in civilian jobs. It was cruel to fire women doing excellent work in a spectrum of non-combat tasks simply because they were lesbian; ditto men. But Republicans never got that. A careful study of foreign combat units, including those of Britain, could have provided useful information on combat operations that include gay men — but Republicans never called for such a study or showed any breadth of understanding of the larger personal and human rights issues at stake.

The Dream Act made sense — at least in some form. It was carefully crafted to allow the children of illegal immigrants, born abroad, to earn a delayed citizenship through college education and military service. If pared back to military service alone, it would have been a way for the Republicans to show some sympathy and understanding for the plight of illegal immigrant children growing up in America. Instead, Republicans voted against it 36-3 in the Senate and 160-8 in the House

The 10 to 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S., mostly Hispanic, are not going away and expelling them en masse is politically and physically impossible. There has to be some accommodation. Republicans are right that the invasion must stop — which President Obama and most Democrats refuse to address because they are gaining the votes. But that’s the point: Hispanics are now voting 3-1 Democrat; they re-elected Harry Reid in Nevada and gave all the top state offices in California to Democrats. Obsessed with an anti-amnesty outlook, Republicans don’t see that some kind of permanent “guest worker” program makes sense — one without citizenship. Such a program should not be ongoing — and liberal Democrats with the support of “country club” Republicans would endeavor to make it so, thus legitimizing the Latino invasion and extending it indefinitely. The alternative — accepting a non-voting but legal four percent alien worker population within our borders — would be considered quite normal in most European countries, where guest worker programs have operated for decades. The Dream Act would have bestowed a precious citizenship on a tiny fraction of illegals. It was a compassionate and sensible gesture that would have won the Republicans some votes they may badly need in 2012, after Obama has recast himself as a populist and publicly identified Republicans with the rich, big business and special interest groups — a tack he will not fail to take.

James Delmont is a widely published journalist and college teacher with a PhD in history. He has recently finished a book, The Great Liberal Death Wish.