Democrats have complemented their smiling encouragements with behind-the-scenes threats. After retaking the House in 2006, the party made clear that companies that did not hire Democratic lobbyists would not get a hearing in Washington. The ruling party is now seeing the fruits of its bullying. These days, a meeting of health-care lobbyists is better described as a reunion of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus's former aides. Health-care lobbying has been turned on its head: The new cabal of Democratic lobbyists does not exist to protect the industry from Congress. It exists to present Democratic ultimatums to business.
When Senate Republicans last month hosted a meeting to discuss reform ideas, Mr. Baucus's office called in a block of these Democratic lobbyists to deliver a message. "They said, 'Republicans are having this meeting and you need to let all of your clients know if they have someone there, that will be viewed as a hostile act,'" reported one attendee to the Baucus caucus. Message to companies that don't agree with their Beltway lobbyist: Pull a Rick Scott (the former hospital executive running ads critical of ObamaCare), and you'll be sorry.
All these actions -- the White House meetings, the strung-out negotiations, the muzzling -- have been taken with one aim: To buy silence. President Barack Obama is committed to a public option. Liberal Democrats intend to make the private sector fund their plans. They figure by the time they drop a bill that contains odious elements, it'll be too late for any industry player -- big or small -- to cut a Harry & Louise ad.
If we take a short trip in the way-back machine, we are reminded that Obama promised something else. I seem to recall hearing (endlessly) that folks were tired of politics as usual. Obama was something different.
The promise of an Obama presidency, if it resembles his two year campaign which is no guarantee (i.e., see G. W. Bush) may be one that will be more mechanical and machine-like that will not interfere with every day people's lives but will assist when necessary and regulate or oversee not in large proportion but in smart ways. Hopefully and more than likely, it will be one with less cronyism and more competence. The Obama era hopefully brings a paradigm shift of politics with an adjustment towards inclusion and a stamp on unity of purpose for all Americans, reminiscent of Kennedy's era when Americans of all demographics wanted to serve the public.
One of the more striking excerpts from what was a remarkable speech was when Obama said with empathy and reconciliation, "Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty and national unity. Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and a determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, 'We are not enemies but friends though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.' He continued, "And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight but I hear your voices. I need your help and will be your president too."
Well, that was so-much bullshit, now wasn't it?