The Pulse | Politics beyond health care
Column by Chris Graham
It can be easy to get myopic in our Who won today? scoreboard-focused political world, and in so doing assume that what’s majorly important today, like the months-old health-care debate, will be important tomorrow, next month and forever.
Even recent history suggests to us that politics is as much about the Janet Jackson 1980s song “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” as what happened even a couple of weeks ago.
It’s in that context that I bring up how I was talking recently with my friend Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University, about the political ramifications of the health-care debate on upcoming congressional elections in 2010.
Kidd’s first observation: “Once a bill passes, I think Republican opposition, which has been centered around fighting a bill from being passed, is going to dissipate.”
Good observation, good reasoning. I hadn’t thought of it this way, but yes, it does seem that there will be a creep toward inertia as it becomes accepted that whatever reform is the law of the land.
Kidd’s reckoning is that with the passage of a reform bill “the president’s approval rating goes up six or eight points” immediately thereafter, and members of Congress will be able to pull away from the national-issues front to focus on micro-level issues in their districts.
“Right now, everybody is sort of being sucked into the health-care vortex, but once it becomes law, it’s sort of off the table, it’s a done deal, and everybody can focus on what’s important to their district and focus on issues that are important to them and their constituents,” Kidd said.
It won’t take long for health care to have disappeared from the rearview mirror. “We’re not going to be talking about health care in the middle of the summer in 2010 if Obama signs a health-care bill into law in January,” Kidd said.
What will we be talking about? Kidd has an interesting thought there.
“You know what I think we’re going to be talking about? Immigration. I think that’s a tactical move on the part of the administration. Once health care is passed, to shift to a topic that’s going to divide Republicans,” Kidd said.
Food for thought …