Having stuck his neck out — through trial balloons suggesting a possible abandonment of the public option — President Obama is now retreating into Fort Democrat and relying on his own party members to jam through health care legislation. With 60 senators and a 76-vote margin in the House, he need not compromise or even listen to Republicans. He can invoke the so-called "nuclear option" and pass his bill in the Senate with just 50 votes and no possibility of real debate, much less a filibuster.
So no matter how low Obama's plan sinks in the polls, he feels that he can rely on his loyal troops to march in lockstep and pass his health care proposals.
The firestorm of protest his possible abandonment of the public option set off represented a signal to him from the party's left: We will stay with you through thick and thin, just don't compromise.
Can he pull it off? Probably he can. Except if the elderly block vote against him in the polls. Already seniors oppose his plan by 32 percent to 49 percent in the latest FoxNews poll. If their margin of disagreement swells ... and their anger continues to be manifest in the town hall meetings and other public gatherings ... and senators and representatives are deluged by handwritten letters from seniors opposing the bill, there is a chance to stop it.
Ever since FDR passed Social Security in 1937 and LBJ pushed through Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the elderly have block voted for the Democratic Party.
Their support is one of the core elements on which the party continues to rely for its political backing. If the Democrats can be convinced that there is a real chance that health care reform, financed by Medicare cuts, will reverse the elderly's staunch Democratic devotion, they may not cast the fateful votes.
After all, just as education is primarily a concern for parents usually in their 20s and 30s, health care is mainly an issue for the elderly (particularly since all children can get insurance through the SCHIP program Bill Clinton passed). If the elderly manifest their outrage and concern, the Democrats cannot ignore the firestorm of criticism from their traditional base.
No less a figure than Leon Trotsky once said, "Revolution is impossible until it becomes inevitable." That's the current situation. Stopping health care from passing with the top-heavy Democratic majorities in both houses is clearly impossible — until it becomes inevitable. That is until the seniors weigh in with massive opposition and red-hot intensity.