A Conservative's Lament: The Specter of Public Health
With the midterm elections drawing near, conservatives should pause and reflect on missed opportunities. Despite Obama’s unprecedented unpopularity and strong opposition to his signature policy achievements: Obamacare and the Stimulus, it is almost a perfect certainty that the Democrats will hold onto the US Senate. The expert prognosticator Nate Silver, of FiveThirtyEight, has determined the Democrats will control the Senate barring a last-minute game-changer. At this point, all the game changers have cut against conservatives – as the liberal base rallies and Tea Party candidates flail. Democratic momentum is real, conservatives must assess the road not taken.
In my mind, one of the larger issues ignored by both parties is that of public health. "Obamacare" has been dragged through the mud by conservatives and their anti-government counterparts in the Tea Party and rightly so; it expands the government's presence into the realm of public health beyond any historical precedent (a central point of contention for conservatives). This message has been effectively used in garnering support amongst the Republican base; Thune, O'Donnell, Angle, Paul and others have made clear their intentions to repeal the bill should Republicans control either the Senate or House. Of course, without complete control in the Senate their efforts will be limited to defunding the bill and incentivizing the creation of a smaller incarnation but as far as conservatives are concerned, it's a start. Interestingly enough, the issue of public health has become a lightning rod for the Republican base; it is clear that the mere mention of the subject is sufficient to draw the ire of those most depended on by the Republican party to vote. The most pressing example currently available would be California's current battle to legalize and tax marijuana. It is important to note that while Republican/Tea Party voters seem to hold little animosity for the issue (it being a concession to the all-important issue of "state's rights") the nature of the debate changes when one suggests that drug offenders, for which the bar is set very high, are now to be wards of the state's various public health agencies and rehabilitation programs. At the mere mention of expanding government involvement in the state's administration of its programs the game changes; where conservative support for the bill once was high, explication of the program's intentions (true or not as is often the case in these elections) to rehabilitate offenders via federal programs has sent Republican voters away from the ballot box with Proposition 19's status now in question. So when conservatives ask themselves, "what could we have done to change the outcome of this midterm election" the answer, invariably, is finding ways to effectively tie the expansion of federal government's purview over the private lives of citizens into new policy frameworks. The public health issue is but one of many I intend to explore both before and after the results of the election are finalized and the dust has settled. On a side note, it is interesting that before Congress took their recess to fight the good fight nationwide in a series of contentious elections President Obama held off on delivering to the public a new series of government programs intended to better the lives, ironically, of the very people who would vote against them if he did.