Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) says the fight over Obamacare funding is President Obama’s Gettysburg. But the last time he invoked that analogy, Democratic troops were driven from the field.
Wednesday on CSPAN’s Washington Journal, Mr. McDermott characterized the coming fight over Obamacare implementation funding as comparable to the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. “The president has to stand up and fight at this point like he’s never fought before in his life,” he urged. “This is Gettysburg, this is the big battle and after this the Civil War pretty much was down hill for the South. That’s really what’s happening here for the forces against Obamacare. If they lose this one, it’s over.”
Even granting a certain degree of rhetorical license, this comparison is far-fetched. (And let’s ignore for a moment that the boys in gray were Democrats.) For Obamacare opponents, the coming funding battle is just another skirmish in a long-term resistance. The inaptly named Affordable Care Act is a slow-rolling disaster, and there will be many opportunities to wage battle against it in coming years. Republicans know they don’t have to make a last-ditch, desperation assault. The same cannot be said for the program’s supporters, since if they lose the funding battle the program cannot survive. Even Mr. McDermott admits that the White House has poorly managed the program rollout. The Dems are the ones who will have to charge the guns, waging hand to hand combat over scarce budget dollars, and hoping Republicans don’t seize the high ground over troubling issues like the Obamacare “data hub.”
Mr. McDermott said that Democrats were “going to make every effort we can to keep the president’s spine made out of steel.” Interesting phrasing, since Mr. Obama is not particularly known for his resilient vertebrae. Case in point: flashback to late 2010, after the Obamacare-induced “shellacking” Democrats suffered in the midterm elections. The issue then was whether Mr. Obama should compromise with Republicans over renewing Bush-era tax cuts during the outgoing Congress’ lame duck session. “This is the president’s Gettysburg,” Mr. McDermott then declared. “He’s going to have to decide whether he’s going to withstand Pickett’s Charge.”
But instead of fighting, Mr. Obama cut a deal which many on the left regarded as unconditional surrender. Afterwards a despondent Mr. McDermott said, “this was Gettysburg … that was the turning point in the war. And it really is a question of how you continue to rally your troops if you keep giving in on things that people really care about.”
Maybe Mr. McDermott forgot that by his own reckoning Obama’s Gettysburg was already fought, and lost. He needs to switch battles. With public opinion moving strongly against Obamacare and a rising sense of anxiety among Democrats, maybe the coming engagement is more akin to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. After all, Custer was a Democrat.
James S. Robbins is Deputy Editor of Rare and author of Native Americans: Patriotism, Exceptionalism, and the New American Identity. Follow him on Twitter @James_Robbins