Froma Harrop | The Democrats Did Good

The Democrats did good. Not in the election — they did pretty miserably there. But they did good for the country. They led America back from the brink of economic disaster.

The lead story in the Election Day Wall Street Journal was about the impending sale of General Motors stock to private investors. The subhead read: “IPO Would Raise $10 billion, Cut U.S. Stake Below 50 percent; Value May Top Ford’s.”

That made me smile.

The Democrats put ordinary Americans on the road to health care security in a reform package that should actually lower government deficits, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Thus, politicians who try to repeal the health care law will have to come up with new taxes and/or spending cuts to preserve those deficit reductions. That’s why they won’t.

But Republicans controlling the House may try to follow through on promises to keep the parts of the health care reform that people like and get rid of those that they don’t like. Trouble is, the things people don’t like pay for the things they do.

In any case, the Democrats’ health care reform is a godsend for uninsured workers. (Most everyone else without private coverage is in a government health insurance program.) Employers who do cover workers will see their soaring medical costs moderate. And unless the reforms are seriously messed up, they will begin to help American companies better compete with foreign firms benefiting from efficient, government-regulated health care systems.

For this and other feats of economic stabilization, voters gave Democrats little credit. But why should they have, when so many Democrats gave themselves little credit? Some went even further than that. They actually ran away from their party’s accomplishments, making their victories feel like failures.

This was always going to be a tough election for Democrats in purple parts of the country. For them, the only hope was to swing for the fences. Instead, they pretended they were on the other team. You saw the results.

I leave it to historians to explain President Obama’s weak performance in touting the good his party did under terrible circumstances.

Clearly, voters anguished over lost paychecks and home values — and sometimes the homes themselves — were not in a mindset to thank Democrats or even those Republicans who did unpopular stuff to avoid a total economic meltdown.

It’s true that Republicans with some Democratic help created the unregulated Wall Street free-for-all that brought America to its knees. But the George W. Bush administration was right to help banks in the name of preventing total collapse. Those enraged by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (the bank and auto company bailout) and the government-managed bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler don’t appreciate how close we came to another Great Depression.

The most fascinating political story now moves to the relationship between tea party Republicans and corporate Republicans. The tea party people profess to want smaller government, which would exclude the type of corporate welfare so dear to the old Republican leadership.

For example, the tea party’s Rand Paul, now senator-elect from Kentucky, wants to end farm subsidies. That’s actually a good idea. Wonder what John Hoeven, the new Republican senator from North Dakota, thinks about that.

Will the tea party folks let GOP leaders put them into deep freeze until the next election, or will they stand up for their beliefs? And speaking of their beliefs, how many of them understand that their government subsidies (Medicare is an example) are in fact government subsidies?

Still holding the White House and a Senate majority, Democrats have been hardly rendered powerless. But given their recent show of cowardice in defending their good works, you question whether they’ll even notice that.

Copyright 2010 The Providence Journal Co. Distributed by