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Mr. President, ‘Listen to the People’ on ObamaCare

If it's good advice for Mubarak, why not for you?

by
Jeff Durstewitz

Bio

February 26, 2011 - 12:16 am

During the recent anti-Mubarak uprising, President Obama told us he’d urged the embattled Egyptian to “listen to the people” in deciding what course to take. Whether or not it was the best advice for the now-deposed pharaoh of Egypt, it certainly would be excellent advice for our president himself when it comes to ObamaCare.

The American people sent him a series of clear and increasingly louder messages to back off from his ill-conceived takeover of the nation’s health-care system — a surprise election in blue-trending Virginia, a shocking upset in solid-blue New Jersey, and then the phenomenon of a Republican taking the 60-year Kennedy Senate seat in Massachusetts — but he rammed it through anyway.

Since the law’s passage he has ignored all signs that the people aren’t happy with it — an unhappiness that contributed heavily to one of the biggest “shellackings” a president’s party has ever taken in a mid-term election. In fact, that rejection was so comprehensive that it threatens to wipe out the Democrats as a viable alternative in some parts of the country. Still, our president continues to turn a deaf ear to the people.

True, he allowed in his State of the Union address that he might countenance a little tinkering around the edges of his health-care masterpiece, much as Mubarak sought to buy off protesters with promised concessions. But Obama has also made it clear that he’s willing to sacrifice his party’s majority in the Senate as well as the House in order to hold the line against meaningful change. (Whether all Democrat senators share his stomach for this fight is questionable, given Sen. Webb’s decision not to run again and other Democrats’ search for way to jettison the law’s lynchpin, the individual mandate.)

More than half the states have filed suit against ObamaCare, and two federal courts have also weighed in against it –  the second one actually voiding the entire construct — although the Supreme Court has yet to have its say. When it does, though, it’s quite possible it will deliver yet another negative verdict — in fact, the ultimate one. Does it make sense to wait for ObamaCare to be struck down for once and for all, or get ahead of the curve if possible while also gaining back the people’s favor?

After all, the president came into office with a huge reservoir of goodwill — a large part of which still remains. Many of those who voted for him in 2008 will be looking for an excuse to do so again if only because they don’t want to accept the possibility that a presidency that began with such high hopes could end so ignominiously. He’s attractive, has a great presidential voice, can deliver a decent speech (although he’s no Pericles, as his media acolytes would have us believe), and seems to be a good family man who can even deploy some self-deprecating wit occasionally. All to the good as far as re-election goes, but maybe not good enough if ObamaCare is still rankling the electorate by November of 2012.

And, having just proposed a budget that attempts to put the government’s exploding spending, deficit, and debt on a high-speed rail line to nowhere, Obama definitely could use something to counteract the impression that he’s terminally out of touch with reality.

Let’s grant that, especially in a democracy, it’s good advice for a leader to “listen to the people.” Well, Mr. President? Are you ever going to quit covering your ears? Listening to the people would certainly involve eating some crow — that is, admitting you might not have had the best solution on health care after all while expressing earnest willingness to try another tack — but that would show a winning humility and might even top up that dangerously reduced reservoir of goodwill. Of course, you could continue to hunker down and try to ignore criticism like Mubarak, but wouldn’t it make more sense to just listen to the American people?

Jeff Durstewitz is the co-author, with Ruth Williams, of the Bantam memoir "Younger Than That Now — A Shared Passage From the Sixties." He lives in Saratoga Springs, NY.
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