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Obama's Mandate To Go Long

As Thomas Frank pointed out in a recent column for The Wall St. Journal, Barack Obama has hardly been acting as though he won, let alone as though he has a mandate. But if his decisive victory in November and his dominant majorities weren't enough to convince him, perhaps the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll (h/t TPM) will.

To start off, it should be noted that WaPo finds Obama's transition with an outstanding 80% approval rating, up 13 points since late November. On the subject of whether Obama has a mandate (versus those who say he "should compromise"), a slim majority says 'Yes':

Do you think Obama has a mandate to carry out the agenda he presented during the presidential campaign, or should he compromise on the things the Republicans strongly oppose?

Has mandate 50
Should compromise 46

While a 4 point spread doesn't seem like a lot, that's actually quite impressive that Obama has inspired half of the country to urge him to implement his policies completely absent Republican input, especially considering, ya know, what a right-wing nation we are and how much people despise "bitter partisanship"!

But the more dramatic result for me was on the question of whether Obama should go long or just make incremental change:

Do you think Obama has a mandate to work for (major new social and economic programs) or for (only small policy changes)?

Major new programs 71
Small policy changes 22

Not only does this signify an overwhelming mandate for Obama to implement real, dramatic change in the policy arena, but it's really a call on Obama to use government to make Americans' lives better. It's a complete and utter rejection both of the Republican Party and of their mantra that government is the problem; the American people clearly see government, in the hands of Barack Obama at least, as the solution.

The respondents to this poll are sending an unmistakable and unambiguous message to the President-elect to go long. People get that that's the only way that whole "change" thing is truly going to happen. Obama would probably say that the rhetorical (and more substantive) concessions he's made to Republicans over the past 2 months and his call to work across the aisle in a bi-partisan way blah blah blah have been a means to an end in order to build the sort of political good will with both the Republicans in the minority AND the American people that will enable him to implement the bold and dramatic change that he's been talking about for two years now. One hopes that no later than Wednesday President Obama will cease building that good will and start using it.

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Obama Insurance Mandate For Parents Exciting Faith Based Adoption Agencies

In Nebraska, a loophole in a newly changed law intended to provide safe havens for infants born to teenage mothers has had the unintended consequence of allowing parents of children of any age to legally abandon them. Legal abandonment has long been the insurance of last resort for parents of chronically ill children forced to buy insurance on the individual market. But now even healthy children are being abandoned.

Enter Nebraska, where a well intentioned legal change has illustrated the difficulty of preserving families when jobs disappear.

Parents of even healthy children who might have been able to care for children are leaving children as old as 17 at designated child abandonment safe havens. Not wanting their children to starve, living in cars, etc, many have been giving their children up to become wards of the state, where they can receive health insurance, dental care, and food.

Enter President Elect Obama. Obama has promised to "change" healthcare in 2012 while keeping the expensive insurance companies in the loop, mandating parents to "insure" their children, making it affordable by giving them the "choice" of buying high deductible health care plans or capped plans, if that is all they can afford. (They are supposed to put the thousands of dollars they are saving in tax free medical savings accounts so that when bills come, they will be ready, however, few people have the money. Also, IF they even momentarily drop coverage for a sick child (for example, are 15 minutes late with a payment) and get sick during that time, they will be dropped and not be able to buy insurance again. Also, many parents will not be able to afford individual insurance for their children if their chldren have chronic diseases because the insurance companies quoted profitable "fair price" will be based on their very small group, and priced by its risk. If one member of a family sized group has high risk, the fair price is a high price.)

Some "choice"! High deductible health plans will leave parents struggling with hundreds or thousands of dollars in unpaid bills before they reach deductibles, and all expenses over lifetime or monthly or yearly caps. People will see bills that represent costs that they are not able to cope with. This will lead to an epidemic in child abandonment.

No efforts will be made by individuals fighting for their survival against the system, each alone and isolated. No realistic government efforts will be made to contain costs, as are done with Medicare.

This will lead to a boon for faith based adoption agencies as children are given up by their desperate birth parents.

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This Is What A Mandate Looks Like part deux

As much as McCain tried to run against single-party rule in the closing days of his sad campaign and as likely as Saxby Chambliss is to run on it in his bid to hold onto his Senate seat on Dec. 2nd, the fact is that the American people get that a. splitting power between the parties in fact leads to paralysis, not bi-partisan cooperation (thank you, Mr. 25%) and b. the antidote to single-party Republican rule is not in fact "bi-partisanship" but rather single-party Democratic rule.

Check out these numbers from CNN (h/t TPM):

In the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released Tuesday, 59 percent of those questioned said Democratic control of both the executive and legislative branches will be good for the country, compared with 38 percent saying such one-party control will be bad.

Another important finding in the poll is the positive view the American people have of the Democratic Party. Many Republicans and some in the media like to chalk the drubbing Republicans took on Tuesday up to the battered Republican brand and sure, that's true, but what goes less often remarked is the large store of goodwill that exists toward the Democratic Party.

The poll also indicates that the public has a positive view of the Democratic Party, with 62 percent saying they have a favorable opinion and 31 percent an unfavorable opinion of the party. For the Republicans, a majority, 54 percent, said they have an unfavorable view of the GOP while 38 percent hold a positive view.

As I said repeatedly last Spring, the extended primary was one long PR machine for the Democratic Party and we're seeing it bear fruit today. The popularity of both President-elect Obama and the Democratic Party offers an historic opportunity for Democrats, one that we must do everything we can to embolden them to embrace.

Update [2008-11-11 18:26:15 by Todd Beeton]:These numbers should also serve to strike down the silly claim that, despite last week's result, we're still living in a center-right nation. Eugene Robinson does his part to take this argument down.

What we're hearing instead from Republican politicians, pollsters and pundits is reassurance that the United States is a "center-right nation" with an innate distrust of progressive policies. The problem, these soothing voices say, is that under George W. Bush the GOP strayed from its basic philosophy of limited government and adopted the big-spending habits of the Democrats. Republicans need to rediscover their bedrock principles, this theory goes, and after a few years of rule by Barack Obama and his Democratic enablers on Capitol Hill, voters will come running home to papa.

So much is wrong with this analysis that it's hard to know where to begin. Let's start with the basic premise, that of a center-right American polity. To the extent that such a vague label has any real meaning, that may once have been the case. But if ours were a center-right electorate now, one imagines it might have been kinder to a center-right politician such as John McCain.

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This Is What A Mandate Looks Like

Gallup polled Barack Obama's favorability a few days after his victory last Tuesday and found it has actually soared even higher than the 61% that rated him as favorable in the days leading up to the election.  

Barack Obama Favorability Ratings Nov. 6-8

Favorable 70
Unfavorable 25

In addition they polled the confidence people have in Obama to be a good president.

Are you confident or not confident in Barack Obama's ability to be a good president?

Confident 65
Not confident 28
No opinion 7

Gallup puts these numbers in perspective.

Obama's favorable ratings from the American people have increased since the election -- rising to 70%, up from 61% in Gallup Poll Daily tracking from Nov. 1-3. But even the pre-election 61% reading broke records, marking the highest rating for any presidential candidate in the 1992-2008 period in which Gallup measured favorability using the current question.

As if to reinforce the point that Obama's election was a repudiation of George Bush's presidency, Gallup puts Obama's favorables up against Bush's record low approval ratings.

George W. Bush Approval rating Nov. 6-8

Approve 27
Dis-approve 66


Presidential transitions are always fascinating spectacles, but Monday's White House encounter between Bush and Obama promises to be especially so because of the historic aspect of the nation's first black president-elect taking a step closer to assuming the highest office. It will also be fascinating because of the sharp contrast between Bush and Obama in popularity. At no time in a half century -- and maybe more -- has a president as beleaguered in public opinion as Bush been replaced by someone so highly esteemed.

Seeing this historic level of popularity for the incoming president, I'm even more optimistic that President-elect Obama will heed his own words from his speech last Tuesday:

This is our moment.

This is our time, to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth, that, out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope. And where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can.

And even more to the point, I hope he'll heed those of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin from yesterday's Meet The Press:

Roosevelt became great because of what he did.  So the challenge will be [Obama's] got a mandate, he's got a majority, and he's got a program.  Progressive goals are out there, he's going to have to learn like Roosevelt did in the, in the World War II, even more than the New Deal, move step by step to educate the country, but don't give, don't give up on those progressive goals. This is a mysterious cycle in events that we're going through.  Just like Roosevelt said, "We have a rendezvous with destiny." It's a pretty exciting time.  And my hope is that he doesn't let that go.  LBJ did it in '64 and '65.  It's one of those moments in history, you got to make use of that moment.

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