If the Democrats obey President Barack Obama's command and pass a healthcare bill by the August recess, they'll be committing partisan suicide.
Obama's insistence that we completely remake our healthcare system — and do it two weeks after the first bill was marked up in the first committee — is too arrogant by half. It smacks of the kind of overreaching of FDR's second term in 1937, when, after his landslide win in 1936, he tried to pack the Supreme Court to reverse its anti-New Deal rulings.
Americans are increasingly turning against Obama's program. A Washington Post poll has the plan's public approval below 50 percent; Rasmussen has it trailing 46-49.
For Obama to ride roughshod over Americans' rising concerns about a matter so intimate will be too much.
What's the rush, they'll ask. The bill isn't even slated to take effect until next year. You passed the stimulus package, they'll note, in a similar rush during the administration's first week — only to see it fall flat.
Now Obama aides are claiming the package was never intended to have much effect this year!
How, voters will ask, can we cover 50 million more people without any new doctors or nurses? The answer is to ration healthcare, with the government deciding who'll get hip and knee replacements, heart-bypass surgery and other medical treatments. And what does rationing mean? It means that the elderly will be denied care that they can now get whenever they want.
The Obama plan effectively repeals Medicare, putting a Federal Health Board between the elderly and their doctors.
This board will instruct public and private insurance carriers on what procedures are to be approved, at what cost and for what patients.
The bulk of this rationing will fall on the elderly. We'll have to revisit the idea that the elderly have, in the words of former Colorado Gov. Dick Lamm, "a duty to die."
The more word gets out about what the bill contemplates, the firmer opposition will grow. That's why Obama wants to push it through now, while he retains some popularity.
And if the bill passes? The howls of protest from the elderly the first time they're denied care will be something to behold. It will become evident that the healthcare resources being denied to the elderly are going instead to immigrants — legal and not.
The anger will be enormous and instant.
Most Americans aren't sick and don't use medical facilities often. But the elderly constantly stay in touch with their doctors and medical providers. The curtailment of that access will become immediately apparent — and in more than enough time for the 2010 elections.
Some votes live on and on. People remember senators' votes on the Kuwait war resolution. President Bill Clinton chose Vice President Al Gore for the 1992 ticket largely based on Gore's vote in favor of the invasion. It sent a signal that Gore and he were a "new kind of Democrat."
This healthcare vote is similarly consequential — it will linger for years.