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The Process Continues

by Sudhama Ranganathan Monday, Dec. 21, 2009 at 5:25 AM

In 2008 after the national elections and all the votes were tallied everyone presumed Democrats had a strong position in Washington. Their candidate Barack Obama won the White House with a solid showing that November. They ended up with a huge majority in the House of Representatives. These two things were healthy and an upbeat sign for those who voted for change in Congress.

The Process Continue...
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In the end it was the Senate where Democrats needed the votes to have a majority capable of handling the demands the party and voters had riding on them. It was believed the key to a filibuster proof majority in the Senate rested with a hotly contested race in Minnesota which was not resolved until July 7, 2009. On that day Democratic Senator was sworn into office and with a few Independents it was believed would caucus left most people simply assumed the change voted for in 2008 was on solid ground.

Assuming always involves some amount of faith and misplaced faith may at times lead to disappointment. This time proved no exception. Not all Independents in question were interested in caucusing with the Democrats 100% of the time. As it turns out one in particular was just what he had become - an Independent.

Though once a Democrat after losing the primary in his state he decided to run anyways as an Independent. It upset many in that state, but he had a strong and loyal following. He had moved from being known as fairly liberal to becoming one of the most ardent supporters of many Bush administration policies. These policies were very unpopular with the majority of Democrats, Independents and even a significant number of Republicans. But he was re-elected without lying about that and without being able to hide his record even if he had wanted to.

During his campaign he openly stated he would be Independent and would not always caucus with Democrats if it ran counter to his beliefs. He stated some stances he took supporting policies favorable to the right would probably continue.

The voters in his state put him back into office as an Independent. The fact he promised to most of the time caucus with Democrats helped as his state typically votes Democrat. The fact he held prominent positions on powerful committees also aided him in his bid for re-election.

He won by a sizeable margin. During his time as an Independent Senator he continued to move towards the right on many positions. This was highlighted dramatically during the 2008 election season when he supported and campaigned for the Republican party nominee John McCain in his bid against Barack Obama.

This was an open indication which way he could be voting. He would be - as he promised and as he ran - an Independent. This angered many on the left as they felt a sense of betrayal. On the right it was seen as a positive sign the perceived Democratic majority was not written in stone. The change taken for granted by so many was in reality fragile at best.

In February President Obama pledged to push through one of his campaign promises specifically health care reform. This had been attempted before, but each time the powerful health care industry lobby always managed to thwart reforms aimed at curbing some of their more deleterious business practices.

Those practices were not by mistake or as a result of sloppy design. They made money and increased the bottom line. That encouraged investors, but policy holders paid the price and the lack of coverage was costing taxpayers dearly. Health care reform was meant to tackle these and many more concerns, but the health care industry was ready for a fight. These were the concerns of middle income and lower income Americans.

There were many obstacles to the most potent portions of reform meant to benefit Americans especially in those tax brackets. Republicans pretty much refused to play ball with many of the propositions to exact a tougher revamping of the health care industry. But, it wasn't Republican's sideline stance threatening some of the more middle to lower income favorable portions of the bill.

Many conservative Democrats voiced opposition to aspects of the bill and months of tough negotiations dragged on. The infighting people on all sides began to sour on the process. Many of the aspects of the legislation opposed most stridently by the health care industry were eventually removed.

Of those aspects, one was eventually blocked by the once Democrat turned Independent Senator. Many were shocked and expressed confusion and a sense of betrayal. But, that Senator had moved very much to the right over the past eight plus years and even campaigned for the Republican Party presidential candidate during the last election. As an Independent who vowed to stay Independent really he had every right to do so.

On top of that he came from a state dominated by health insurance industry interests. His campaign has many health insurance industry supporters. In many ways the fact he took a strong stance to block any public competition to private insurers should come as no surprise.

In the end what it showed was that there really is no filibuster proof majority in Congress right now. Sure he would vote to support anything he felt he could agree with. But, an Independent Senator who supported the Republican candidate during the last election, relies heavily on the support of the health care industry and comes from a state where many health insurance companies are headquartered voting against creating public competition against private health insurers should present no surprise. Without that he has promised to vote for reforms on dec/k.

In truth the fight many on the left waged for change in the system still continues and is just as much in play as that Republicans and Tea Partyers are waging. In order to realize that change the only way is to make voices heard as happened in 2006 and 2008. Democrats are still very much embroiled in a fight and the health care debate has highlighted two things.

One, the center to right has many concerns they are still fighting for. The other is the center to left still have much to fight for as well. The round of national elections in 2008 was but a round. There may be many more to come before America has the kind of change it hoped for in 2008. In truth the fight may just be getting hot.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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