It’s a long shot prediction in red-state Oklahoma, but those local U.S. Representatives who recently voted in favor of dismantling Medicare could face reelection problems in 2012.
All the Republicans in Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation voted in favor of a budget proposal by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) that would change Medicare into a voucher program in which seniors would have to eventually pay substantially more for their health care and insurance. (I wrote about the proposal here. Here is Paul Krugman on the issue). To his credit, U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, a Blue Dog Democrat, voted against the plan, which passed the House because of the Republican majority and failed in the Senate.
Amid all the negative hoopla over Ryan’s plan, Democrat Kathy Hochul won a U.S. House special election race in upstate New York in a predominately Republican district by campaigning against the GOP’s Medicare elimination plan.
Could a Hochul-like victory happen here? Unfortunately, there are no clear signs that it could, and with the local, anti-Obama hysteria fanned constantly by the biased, corporate media here, it seems almost impossible for Democrats to make gains in the short term. Yet Democrats could have an opportunity in some races if they pushed back against the destruction of Medicare and fielded good candidates.
U.S. Sens. Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe are not up for reelection in 2012, but all House seats will be up for grabs. At this point, the best chance for Democratic success would seem to be in U.S. Rep. James Lankford’s 5th District and U.S. John Sullivan’s 1st District. Those districts cover large metropolitan areas, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and, by default, have more diversity in political philosophies. Grassroots campaigns probably have a better chance right now in those areas. Perhaps, the perennially cash-strapped Democrats could focus on those two districts as they offer to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security from the Republicans.
Lankford, pictured right with Ryan, who is serving his first term, seems especially vulnerable because he has really done nothing in Washington but essentially expressed frustration about the political process and supported Ryan’s plan to end Medicare as we know it. The idea that the Ryan plan on Medicare is a serious proposal is just nonsense. But that’s what Lankford wants us to believe. Why does Lankford want seniors on fixed incomes to pay astronomical amounts of money for health care? He needs to be held accountable.
Can Democrats here keep Medicare as an issue if the GOP backs away from the radical proposal? Yes, but those efforts need to start now and continue through the general election in 2012. The issue is simply that the current Republican political ideology in Washington is radical and dangerous. A prevailing number of Republicans apparently want to dismantle programs for seniors and end them for future generations. Those programs include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The Republicans argue they want to cut government spending, but, meanwhile, we continue to pour money into two military actions that Americans quit supporting years ago. Here’s what the GOP political strategy seems to be right now: Ignore what people want Congress to do and hurt as many old people as possible in the process. It may not be political suicide here among the Obama haters, but it didn’t fly in upstate New York, and it’s not going to fly in other places as well.
The idea, pushed by Republicans, that any protest against their plan is “Mediscare” and hyperbole is laughable and ludicrous given the GOP political venom used to attack the Affordable Care Act.
So the Democratic strategy here right now should be two-fold when it comes to the Congressional races: Pound Republicans on their cruel, inhumane votes to dismantle Medicare and find good candidates, who will have to work extremely hard for a long-shot chance at victory. It’s not much, but it’s something.