Earlier this week I asked why Democrats continue to push a national health care bill, even though dozens of polls show a solid majority of Americans don't want it. Are President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid irrational? Politically tone deaf? What could possibly account for their rush to pass legislation that the public decisively rejects — less than a year before the 2010 elections?
I outlined the theories of a Democratic strategist who asked to remain anonymous. He said that Pelosi is determined to fulfill the Democratic Party's destiny — a national health care system — and believes losing 20, or even 40 Democratic seats in the House would be an acceptable price for achieving a goal the party has pursued since Franklin Roosevelt. The president is looking for a crowning achievement and has the comfort of not running for re-election in 2010. And, the strategist said, Reid believes that whatever losses Senate Democrats sustain in 2010 will happen regardless of whether health care is passed.
So they all forge ahead.
After the column was published, I heard from many readers with their own ideas. The strategist wasn't telling me the whole story, they said; the Democrats' motivations go much deeper. So here are some other theories for the party's headlong rush into what looks like political disaster.
“The Democrats are playing for the long term,” wrote one reader. “They know that, once they've planted a new entitlement, it will grow as fast as they can water it with taxpayer dollars.”
“The only way to fully understand the motivation for pursuing this legislation is that it creates dependency,” wrote another. “The unstated, but ever-present, goal of health care reform is to make as many Americans as possible as dependent on the federal government as possible for as much of their lives as possible.” The reader theorized that the bill's mandates — requirements for everyone to have health coverage — are designed to create what Democrats “have dreamed of for generations: total dependency and a universal entitlement that can never be voted out of existence.”
It's been done elsewhere, said another reader, who argued that the Democratic plan is designed “to make it so our conservatives will be like the conservatives in England, where the entire political paradigm has lurched leftward to the point where the only difference in the two parties is who will give you more.”
Other readers pointed to pressures inside the Democratic coalition. “Leadership figures are worried about their position inside the caucus, and they need the support of unions and 'progressive' organizations to hold caucus majorities,” one wrote. Added another: “The real answer may lie in the fact that both sides of the political fence have beloved factions that vote much more often than the national average. When energized, a near-100 percent turnout of a particular group of, say, 20 percent of the electorate means a much higher effective turnout.” In other words, Democratic leaders are doing it for their noisy — and loyally voting — fringe.
Yet another reader's theory: “I think they're insane.”
No readers took issue with the strategist's argument that Democrats display so much confidence because they believe they know what is best for the American people. And, as I predicted, conservative readers loved the strategist's comparison of Democratic leaders with robbers who, having decided to knock off a bank, conclude it's best to keep going no matter what. “They're in the bank, they've got their guns out,” the strategist said. “They can run outside with no money, or they can stick it out, go through the gunfight, and get away with the money.”
“Yes!” wrote one reader. “'Dog Day Afternoon' for Democrats!”
This week the president told the nation that we are “on the precipice” of passing historic health care legislation. He could not have chosen a better word, because that's what a majority of readers — and the American public — believe: that we're about to plunge into a health care system that is more expensive and offers lower-quality care than what we have now.
Finally, when I wrote, “Democrats are all in. They're going through with it. Even if it kills them,” one reader said it really came down to a much more fundamental question: “But what if it kills us?”
Can't argue with that.