It has been brought to my attention that it is not entirely accurate to claim that Republicans opposed Social Security and Medicare every step of the way. While that was never quite what I claimed, I do feel obligated to present you with the facts on the Congressional vote for both programs. As you can see, there was much more bipartisan support for Social Security than for Medicare. My explanation is that the country was reeling from the Depression in 1935 and people favored solidarity and craved security during that dark time. On the other hand, in 1965, racial issues served to divide the country in ways that show up along party lines.
In either case, Democrats did indeed lead the charge — and I believe can claim responsibility for these two programs. The more variable factor is the amount of support from across the aisle. So where are we now? On one hand, our economy is in the worst shape it’s been in since the Depression. So do we seek solidarity? On the other hand, we have our first black President, and this has certainly revealed the continuing racial tensions in this country. So are we seeing a repeat of the 1960’s politics of race? Only time will tell. But here’s something fun to consider: All of the people in the town halls who are shouting about “death panels” are not — contrary to popular perception — opposing government-run health care. No, they are opposing the denial of government-run health care. That alone is a powerful testament to the popularity of Medicare.