HHS Mandate: Obama’s Polarizing Bet and How It Played Out

President Barack Obama, official portrait

I’m going to write about the Democratic Party’s turn to polarizing wedge-issue campaigning quite a lot in the months to come. I think it’s one of the most important aspects of the 2012 election.

This tactic of using wedge issues to push segments of the electorate to vote the way you want has been used heavily by the Republicans for decades. They’ve built their constituency primarily around abortion, but they’ve also used attacks on homosexuals and hispanics that went so far as attempting to deny them basic government services and civil rights.

I know. I’ve had to vote against some of their egregious legislation in this area.

This wedge issue electioneering by the Republican Party made it easy for the Democrats to come along and use the other side of those wedge issues to drive their own votes to the polls.

The problems with this are many and extensive, but perhaps the worst of them is the damage it does to the country. Once you call out the dogs of inflamed hatred and blind rage in order to get people to vote the way you want, it’s a little difficult to shut it back down when it’s time to govern. That is especially true when the other side of the political war is still out there, firing things up in hopes of regaining the power you just took from them.

That’s the core reason we are already hearing that Congressional leaders are planning their votes on key issues dealing with major things this country needs to save it from going over the economic cliff as chips for the 2014 election. Two days after we vote, and these jerks are already talking about doing it again. They’ve completely skipped past any consideration of actually doing the job they were elected to do.

Governing the country, the common good, the welfare of the American people are all non sequiturs to wedge-issue politicians.

The article below describes the calculated considerations that were weighed with the creation and enactment of the HHS Mandate. Notice that the First Amendment, the good of the country, and right and wrong did not have a column on the balance sheet when this decision was made. The only consideration was: Will it work to drive votes to the President in the 2012 election?

That’s ruthless.

Unfortunately, it’s not confined to one man or even one political party. It’s the way business is done among the new politicians of both parties.

The Worldwide Religious News article reads in part:

Religion, marriage and the GOP’s demographic challenge brought to the fore by 2012 election
Eric Schulzke (“Deseret News,” November 6, 2012)

Salt Lake City, USA — America is sharply divided along multiple fault lines, but one of the sharpest, according to Tuesday’s exit polls, is religion. Polls showed that Mitt Romney won 59 percent of the votes of the 42 percent of people that attend church weekly. But Barack Obama won 56 percent of those who attend only rarely and 63 percent of those who never attend church.

Rather than seeking to smooth over this gap, the Obama camp decided during the early stages of this election cycle to magnify it to its advantage, according to Brookings Institution Fellow Bill Galston.

The Obama team strategically picked a fight with the Catholic Church last spring, Galston said, when it chose to draw a hardline on the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

“They made a decision way back in December 2011 that the only way to save the Obama presidency was to go all out to mobilize the core elements of the 2008 coalition,” Galston said.

When the Catholic hierarchy rose to the bait and fought aggressively against the requirement that Catholic institutions provide contraceptives with their health care, Galston said, the Obama camp did not “just stumble into that.”

The Catholic vote is one of two key voting blocks that were destined to play a central role in the 2012 election. The other was the white evangelical vote, a core Republican block that Romney had a delicate and doubtful relationship with due to his Mormon faith and his waffling on social issues over time.

“Catholics are swing voters that neither party can take for granted,” Galston said. “It is very rare for one party to get more than 55 percent of the Catholic vote.” Two keys heading into the election centered around which way Catholics would tilt and whether evangelicals would turn out in large enough numbers to vote for a man few of them wanted to nominate.

And, as Galston observes, all this was set against Obama’s gamble that he could mobilize his base to overcome Catholic pushback. By lighting a fiercely partisan fire, would the Democrats be able to turn out their base in sufficient numbers?

The answer turned out to be yes.

And in answering that question, America got a glimpse at the demographic challenges that now face the Republican party, which now finds itself squeezed on all sides — trying to lay claim to an ever-shrinking base of white, married, religious voters.

Risking backlash

A key policy adviser in the Clinton White House, Galston speaks wistfully of his former boss, who took a more centrist path to re-election and governance, winning huge swaths of red territory in two elections, and he sees difficulties in governing and healing a country that is now sharply divided. (Read more here.)

“I know for a fact that the Obama people were warned in advance. They were under no illusions about what the reaction of the Catholic Church and the Catholic community would be,” he said. “It wasn’t something they sought, but it was something they were willing to accept as part of a package, whose upside they judged to be greater than the downside.”

And so the Obama White House drove hard at the Catholic Church, refusing to budge, infuriating bishops and even drawing the ire of a number of liberal Catholics. “Even moderate and liberal Catholics thought the administration was pushing the church around,” Galston said.

But in the same motion, Obama pivoted to the “war-on-women” theme — casting a dispute over who pays for contraceptives as an effort by old, conservative men to control women’s bodies.

The upshot: the Obama camp was willing to cede the GOP a greater share of the Catholic vote in order to bolster its base, particularly its core constituency of unmarried women. (Read more here.)

I’m Tired of Bronco Bama ….

I wrote about this earlier. Now it’s come to pass.

How many of us agree?

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