Although I love living in Montana, right now I wish I still had voting privileges in New York so I could cast a ballot in the next election for anyone other than Senator Chuck Schumer—and I mean anyone: right now, New Yorkers could nominate Satan himself to oppose Senator Schumer, and my vote would go to the devil, which is where I’d like Schumer to go as well.
Senator Schumer, the third-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, spoke at the National Press Club on Monday. He decided it was high time for him to weigh in on what a big mistake it was for Democrats in 2009-10 to pass historic healthcare reform (Obamacare) instead of doing…well, something else:
After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus. But unfortunately, Democrats blew the opportunity the American people gave them. We took their mandate and put all of our focus on the wrong problem – health care reform.
The plight of uninsured Americans and the hardships caused by unfair insurance company practices certainly needed to be addressed. But it wasn’t the change we were hired to make; Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs; not for changes in their health care. This makes sense considering that 85 percent of all Americans got their health care from either the government – Medicare or Medicaid – or their employer. And if health care costs were going up, it didn’t really affect them.
It’s possible that, Senator Schumer notwithstanding, the Democrats “were hired” in November 2008 to do more than one thing; there’s no question that national healthcare reform was part of the Democratic Party platform that year and an issue on which candidate Barack Obama campaigned. But Senator Schumer thinks that, since most Americans already had healthcare coverage, the Democrats shouldn’t have wasted their time and political capital helping the 36 million of their fellow citizens who were uninsured. Especially since—and Senator Schumer helpfully did the math for us—even if those 36 million unfortunates voted at the same rate as the populace at large, they would still have amounted to only 5% of the electorate. Why did the Democrats expend their precious mandate on a crummy 5% of the voters?
In Senator Schumer’s own words:
The Affordable Care Act was aimed at the 36 million Americans who were uncovered. It has been reported that only a third of the uninsured are even registered to vote. In 2010, only about 40 percent of those registered voted, so even if the uninsured kept with that rate (which they likely did not) you would still only be talking about 5 percent of the electorate. To aim a huge change in mandate at such a small percentage of the electorate made no political sense. So when Democrats focused on health care, the average middle class person thought “the Democrats are not paying enough attention to me.”
At the Washington Post, Paul Waldman refers to this part of Schumer’s remarks as “striking cynicism,” which is putting it mildly; I’d refer to them as “craven political calculation,” but that’s just my opinion.
Senator Schumer is no doubt attempting to position himself and his party for the 2016 elections, but with remarks like these, he’s going to convince at least some registered Democrats that they might want to look for an alternative. Perhaps the senator has been in Washington too long; in which case, New Yorkers should do their best to see to it that he gets to go home at the earliest possible opportunity.