Democrats can’t win for losing. With Congress likely to pass health care reform, now Democratic lawmakers worry that legislative victory will be a Pyrrhic victory that will cost them dearly in November. Washington Post analysts are already warning that Democrats may pay a price for daring to win.
Not to worry. If Obama succeeds, it’s his success that voters will remember. Take Josef Stalin. There are many Russians who are nostalgic for his rule. Take Richard Nixon. A decade after resigning in disgrace, he became an elder statesman.
Stalin was a monster, Nixon a tyrant. Both were awful human beings, and in many ways, incompetent statesmen; Stalin’s foolish alliance with Hitler almost lost the war, while Nixon’s Vietnam policy prolonged that miserable and divisive war for years. Yet both went down in popular history as being tough and decisive statesmen, largely because their successors weren’t. Russia has shrunk into a chaotic kleptocracy compared to Stalin’s empire. And do you see Americans nostalgic for Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter?
Of course, the rehabilitation of Stalin and Nixon took years, while Obama has less than eight months until the mid-term elections. But I don’t think health care will cost the Democrats. Anti-incumbent fever will, but that’s not Obama’s fault. The worst thing for him would be to lose the health care battle, and a crippled Obama administration is no boon for a Democratic Congress.
Perhaps health care reform will fail, though its failures may not become evident until after Obama leaves office. But with his back to the wall, Obama showed enough mettle to get his prize legislation passed. That’s what voters will remember.