Now that the midterm elections are a little more than a week behind us, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what the results mean. Here it is in a nutshell: People are unhappy. Of course, that begs the question, “Why are people unhappy?” Conservative pundits would have you believe that people are unhappy with the policies of the Obama administration and that the election served as a referendum on these “failed” policies. They look to these election results as necessary and sufficient proof that the American people are tired of being ignored and decided to take their country back. The thing is, if that’s true, then just two years ago, a majority of Americans decided to give their country away enthusiastically. If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it is.
Elections are driven as much by turnout as they are by other factors, and in midterm elections, voters from the minority party tend to turn out disproportionately. The data clearly show that this happened. By comparison to 2008, voters in 2010 were significantly older and whiter, and the older and whiter demographic tends to vote Republican. Compound that by adding in a languishing economy, and people are desperate to get things fixed. They don’t trust government to solve their problems, and yet, when the economy has problems, they look to a change in government leadership to solve their problems. That is the first paradox among many.
Another paradox is the Republican stance on health reform. They don’t like the intrusive government involvement in the health care system that they call “Obamacare.” Then again, they want to preserve Medicare, the government health insurance program for the elderly and disabled. Apparently government involvement in health care is terrible except when it isn’t. Of course, this paradoxical policy position is readily explained by politics. Remember how the people who voted Republican and who turned out in droves tended to be older? Well, those people love Medicare. Many of them don’t know–or conveniently choose to ignore–that it’s a government program, but they love it. Never mind that Medicare–if extended to the rest of the population–would literally be a single payer system. Never mind that Medicare represents some rather wasteful government spending. Scaring old people translates into votes.
So what happens now? Republicans will put on a show of trying to repeal health reform, which will fail, but be symbolic nonetheless. Then they’ll probably work hard to try and derail implementation of the program, and if they’re successful, here’s what happens:
- The Democrats’ plan looks like a failure (despite never having a real chance)
- Health care costs continue to skyrocket
- More and more Americans lose their insurance coverage
- The nation grows sicker and less competitive
- We get taken over by China
Okay, so that last point is a bit extreme, but it could happen.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride, no doubt. How exactly it all plays out remains to be seen. But if the Republican plan to eliminate the individual mandate while preserving the ban on pre-existing condition exclusions actually becomes reality, get ready to take out a home equity loan when you need to go to the doctor. Oh, you rent? Well, then, just don’t get sick, okay? Because you’ll never be able to afford it.