It is time for a fair warning to all Democrats currently in Congress: Don't be shocked when your bases does not turn out next year.
The public option is still supported by 59% of Americans and 80% of self-identified Democrats. Despite its overwhelming popularity, the Democrats in the Senate have been working tirelessly to kill the public option.
Will the entire Democratic base be so crestfallen simply because the final health reform package lacks a public option that they will all not turn out in 2010? No, but the public option is only one of the biggest symbols of the pure failure of Democrats to live up to their party platform. It is a 50-pound log put on the back of an already overloaded camel.
It is also unlikely that this health care bill will contain the extremely popular drug re-importation amendment which would help every American get their medications at lower prices, even though it has been a top promise for years from the Democratic party. The House health care bill contains the biggest roll back of women's reproductive rights in a generation. The Senate bill has the most stupid, vile, bigoted anti-immigrant idea I've even seen in a Democratic bill.
That last provision would make it illegal for undocumented immigrants to pay full price for private health insurance on the new exchange. It is a knee-jerk, draconian, political move that attempts to appease the teabaggers while ending up costing the taxpayers even more money. Instead of buying insurance, the undocumented immigrants will be forced to use the emergency rooms for all their basic health care needs.
Outside the health care reform battle, many top Democratic promises go unfulfilled. There has been no movement on immigration reform, and if the bigoted language slipped into the Senate health care bill is any precedent, there is not going to be. Repealing the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy is also very popular with the country and the Democratic base, yet it remains in place. It sits there as just one more broken promise to a core Democratic constituency.
The public option is extremely popular. The progressive base has successfully kept the idea very much alive with the greater American public despite the health insurance industry's multi-million dollar campaign against it. If the public option can't succeed, is there any hope for any progressive legislation? Can a simple temper tantrum by Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, or Ben Nelson really cause the other roughly 300 elected Democrats in Washington to abandon every promise they made and every principle they claim to stand for? Who would want to support a party run like that?
If, on election day 2010, elected Democrats are wondering why their base is not turning out, here is your answer. You can't say you were not warned.