Much will be made of the “historic” nature of Obama’s victory for healthcare reform in the US. It’s a controversial issue that was swatted away by Congress when Clinton was in office and whose most famous advocate Edward Kennedy would not live to see. To Europeans and Canadians the issue isn’t even an issue having lived with socialised healthcare for decades, but the issue might just have broken Obama.
- Obama was elected with 52% of the popular vote.
- The vote was won 219- 212, a margin of just 4 votes which were only won with key concessions to anti-abortion Democrats.
- 49% of Americans polled were AGAINST the healthcare bill with only 40% in favour. A massive disparity between his election figures.
- His job approval ratings are effectively split.
Whichever way the Obama team spins the passing of the bill it was an extremely weak victory. The American electorate will be greatly annoyed that such an unpopular bill was passed through and by the slimmest of margins. Obama has lost friends in Washington over the issue with 35 Democrats voting against, with more intending to had he not conceded on abortion.
With mid-term Congressional elections in November the American electorate will have a chance to show how aggrieved they are and the Democrats are set to suffer massively. He will lose allies who lose their seats in Congress and could find getting any other significant policy passed close to impossible if the Republicans reduce the Democrats’ majority.
This won’t come as good news to a President who has already been widely criticised on all sides as having a lame-duck first year in office. If one unpopular reform bill is all he manages to achieve in four years then re-election in 2012 looks increasingly unlikely.
This is not to detract from the significance of the bill itself which will entitle a massive 35 million more Americans to healthcare giving the nation 95% coverage. There’s great cost involved to the taxpayer and also Obama but maybe it was a sacrifice worth making?