Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s abandonment of his alleged “pro-life” commitment brought Majority Leader Harry Reid within reach of a Christmas Eve vote to approve a Senate version of Obamacare. When that happens, the political battles about the future of American medicine and especially the care of seniors will shift to the conference committee and then to the House.
Though many conservatives are demoralized, they should instead be gearing up to peel off enough votes from among the 220 who voted for Obamacare when it passed the lower chamber.
Those votes are going to be found among the 24 Democrats identified by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Reverse The Vote campaign (www.reversethevote.org/dems.html). These are the two dozen Democrats judged most vulnerable Nov. 2 because the beliefs of the voters in their districts do not square with the representatives’ support for the federal government’s takeover of health care.
Even more money is needed, of course, but much more than money, too — and that is where the Tea Party movement comes in.
What matters now is that the genuine grass-roots activists join in the effort to peel off at least three House Democrats from their original support for Obamacare. The Tea Party turnout has considerable overlap with the GOP, but they are very distinct efforts in many respects. Almost every member of both oppose the takeover of health care by the feds, and most also oppose to the massive cuts to Medicare.
While the GOP stays busy raising money for the fall races, Tea Party activists could be focusing on organizing efforts on a district-by-district basis. Imagine the impact in the next few weeks if the cash continued to flow to Reverse The Vote as committees of Tea Party veterans presented themselves and their grievances in the local offices of these 24 Democrats.
Tea Party participants from districts with congressmen who have been opposing Obamacare and massive spending could become virtual members of one of the 24 efforts to turn a Democrat from a yes to a no. The surge in opposition, if focused, could be very effective.
The Tea Party movement has been derided by the left and mocked by the media. But you can be certain that the Democratic incumbents facing another tough vote on Obamacare after the conference report issues will be watching their districts very carefully for signs of deepening and spreading grassroots activism.
The time is now for the Tea Party to target the same out-of-touch-with-their-district Democrats as the GOP. Such an alliance, even if only for a while, could save American medicine.
A test of the movement is directly ahead. To defeat Obamacare, the two sides must team up. The next few weeks will tell us a lot about the motives — and staying power — of the new activists of 2009.
Examiner columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at www.HughHewitt.com.