Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is Obamacare This Century's Equivalent of "Who Lost China?"

In 1947, President Harry Truman engineered the passage of an aid package to Greece and Turkey.  At the time, both countries feared Communist takeover.  He used it as a foundation of his famous Truman Doctrine, which simply promises aid to any country resisting Communist takeover.

The very next year, Chiang Kai Shek fled China for Taiwan, leaving the massive mainland portion in the hands of the bloody Communist Mao Tse Dong.  Although "losing China" did not lose Truman the 1948 election, it frightened Democratic presidents for a generation.  They knew the electorate saw them as soft on foreign policy so they endeavored to not lose again.  Kennedy and Johnson fought in Vietnam for American, but also Democratic Party credibility.  Losses of both in Vietnam convinced future Democrats, rightly or wrongly, that course was unwise.  Could the Obamacare disaster do the same to their Big Government ideals?

The health care law is called the Affordable Care Act.  Since October, Americans have found out how Orwellian that moniker is.  Premiums have skyrocketed; millions lost their plans altogether.  The government system, based mostly on a $634 million website, does not work.  It is also only about 60 percent completed.

You might say that the healthcare.gov site gave Americans a crash course in why it should not run a business.

Meanwhile, Obama's poll numbers sank.  One might expect a serious dip in job performance.  But for the first time, a majority of Americans find him both dishonest and incompetent.

The long term effect of this on American politics could be profound.  The "who lost China" effect made Democratic presidents more bellicose for the next two decades.  At least one pundit believes Obamacare could make Democrats very gun shy about pursuing massive overhauls on this level again.

The cumulative effect of the first two presidential administrations on the country could be a body blow to backers of aggressive government action in any sphere.  Many still see the Iraq War (which the United States actually won) as a breakdown and a failure.  Obamacare has crashed a major segment of the country's economy and thrown millions into suffering and turmoil.  Both of these add up to further popularize libertarian concepts of government's role.

Time will tell whether this cows the Democrats and leads to a long term revision of what Americans expect from government.  But in the short term, confidence in government in any sphere is extraordinarily low.

And that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Second West Virginia Legislator Switches to Republican Party

Former US Senator Zell Miller complained in 2004 that he did not leave the Democratic Party.  It left him.

Two members of the West Virginia Legislature in the past year have come to the same conclusion.  Months ago, State Senator Evan Jenkins of Cabell County switched and announced a run for Congress.  Now, Delegate Ryan Ferns of Ohio County has done the same.

Ferns' home district in Ohio County resembles what Washington insiders call "Hillary country."  Wheeling has a long industrial history that has faded in the past twenty years.  Its blue collar roots have been supplemented by the luring of major retail outlets on the Interstate 70- corridor.

A "Hillary country" Democrat going red is a bad omen for Clinton in West Virginia. It shows that Obama's tenure has alienated a great deal of the blue collar bases depended upon by the Clintons.

Also interesting are the long standing ties between the Ferns family and Senator Joe Manchin.  Delegate Ferns' father and Manchin are reputed to be close friends.  Manchin family ties with Republicans are not unusual.  Governor Arch Moore worked closely with A. James Manchin, for instance.

This, however, invites scrutiny because of the increasingly isolated position in which Manchin finds himself.  In October, a Roll Call article described a centrist senator regretting leaving the Governor's Mansion.  Last week, he defied Senate leadership on a pivotal vote which removed minority filibuster power on nominees.

Manchin's discontent as a Senate Democrat seems clear.  His home state drifts toward the Republican Party by staying true to its traditional values. Manchin's few clashes with his base quickly, if temporarily, eroded his popularity.  Following the example of Ferns and Jenkins is one option.  Abandoning all party identification, like former Senator and vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman, is another.

Clearly Manchin, Ferns, Jenkins, and many of their traditionally Democratic brethren in West Virginia share the same dilemmas.  Switching to the GOP means breaking with generations of tradition in a state where party identification ranks a close third to family and denomination.  But how long can such ties remain when the national Democratic Party stokes hostility with values held dear by most West Virginians?

And what will this mean politically for the state in the next few years?