Democrats wrongly believe Americans voted them out in droves 1994 because they failed to deliver universal health care legislation.
It appeared to be a politically convenient way for Democrats to explain away their losses that year and think up new ways to tee up another universal health care bill in the future. Unfortunately for Democrats, what was once political spin to save face after losing the House and Senate to Republicans, became accepted as correct political analysis among party leaders and will likely cost Democrats even more seats come in November.
In 1994, the American Enterprise Institute published a study by Karlyn H. Bowman who cited a Gallup poll that was taken after the universal health care bill failed to pass. Ms. Bowman said, as reported by David Broder of the Washington Post:
“In early October 1994, the Gallup Organization asked Americans how they felt about the fact that Congress had not passed a health care bill. A majority (53 percent) told the pollsters they were ‘relieved,’ while 38 percent said that they were ‘angry.’ The results were not substantially different from those Gallup obtained when the organization first posed a similar question in August. Why would a population that seemed so supportive of health care reform a year earlier have come to this conclusion? And why would an issue that generated so much commentary as a potentially decisive election issue have virtually “vanished from the mid term campaign?”
Mr. Broder wrote those words 11 days before the November election, summarizing what most reporters found on the campaign trail.
Did the polls mislead the policy makers about the importance of this issue and the urgency of reform?
Democrats forget other issues likely hurt them more than anything else. These were: the assault weapons ban the White House pushed through, the 1993 budget reconciliation bill that led to massive tax hikes, and the mobilization of Evangelical Christians to the polls during the 1994 midterm elections.
Far from blaming the midterms on the failure of health care in 1994, The New York Times was still writing about how important the Second Amendment issue was five years after those historic elections.
“For Republicans, the gun control issue has become more difficult as American sentiment has shifted. Their core conservative supporters include many people who feel strongly about the Second Amendment’s guarantee of the right to bear arms. And the National Rifle Association was one of the advocacy groups that House Republicans credited with helping them win the majority in 1994. It is also a major donor to Republicans. In 1998, for example, the NRA’s political action committee donated $1.35 million to the Republican Congressional candidates and $283,000 to Democrats.”
The middle-class and small businesses alike felt burned by the Democratic budget reconciliation bill. Mr. Clinton did not just hike the individual income tax rate to 36 percent and created a top rate of 39.6 percent. The Heritage Foundation shows with the help of his party in the majority on the Hill, he went much farther than that.:
“Repeal of the income cap on Medicare taxes. This provision made the 2.9 percent Medicare payroll tax apply to all wage income. Like the Social Security payroll tax base today, the Medicare tax base was capped at a certain level of wage income prior to 1993.
A 4.3 cent per gallon increase in transportation fuel taxes.
An increase in the taxable portion of Social Security benefits.
A permanent extension of the phase-out of personal exemptions and the phase-down of the deduction for itemized expenses.
Raising the corporate income tax rate to 35 percent.”
L.A. Times columnist Nancy Cohen points out how critical Christian Evangelicals were in 1994 in the ‘get out the vote’ effort for the Republican party that year. Ms. Cohen explains the importance of non-profit Christian advocacy groups that drew out their supporters to the polls during those midterms.:
“The 1994 election was the Christian right’s national coming-out party. Eighty-seven percent of all House seats picked up by the GOP occurred in states with Christian-right influence within the GOP. In the most telling case, the Christian right in the state of Washington took out House Speaker Tom Foley. He had represented Washington for 30 years. It was the first time since the Civil War that a sitting speaker had been defeated.
In the past, white evangelicals voted at lower rates than all other white Americans. Not in 1994, thanks to savvy voter-education and get-out-the-vote campaigns conducted by groups such as the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family and Concerned Women for America. In 1988, 61percent of white evangelicals had voted; in 1994, 74 percent did. Christian conservatives made up 33 perecent of all voters in 1994, compared with 18 percent in 1988.
It was also the year the South went solidly Republican. For the first time since Reconstruction, the majority of senators and representatives elected from the region were members of the GOP. Although anti-Clinton sentiment did burn hottest in the South, the collapse of the Southern Democratic Party had long been in the making. White Southerners began voting Republican in presidential elections in the 1960s, but they still voted Democratic in local and congressional elections.”
It appears the few Democrats who probably remember these actual reasons for the 1994 Democrat downfall are pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Shoen who wrote a stinging intervention in The Washington Post last week for fellow party members who continue to believe that passing the health care bill will only reap positive results or at least not be as bad as not passing anything at all.:
“The White House document released Thursday arguing that reform is becoming more popular is in large part fighting the last war. This isn’t 1994. it’s 2010. And the bottom line is that the American public is overwhelmingly against this bill in its totality even if they like some of its parts.
The notion that once enactment is forced, the public will suddenly embrace health-care reform could not be further from the truth — and is likely to become a rallying cry for disaffected Republicans, independents and, yes, Democrats.
Second, the country is moving away from big government, with distrust growing more generally toward the role of government in our lives. Scott Rasmussen asked last month whose decisions people feared more in health care: that of the federal government or of insurance companies. By 51 percent to 39 percent, respondents feared the decisions of federal government more. This is astounding given the generally negative perception of insurance companies.”
Democrats, though, continue to close their eyes and cover their ears while loudly singing the la la song. Watching their party trying to evade 1994 political land mines is akin to Back to the Future’s movie character Marty Mcfly trying to make everything right in his parents’ past, so he and the rest of his siblings will not vanish later. But a time machine will not help House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (California Democrat) and her caucus if they ignore that Americans did not want the Democrats’ health care legislation in 1994 as much as they do not want it now.