The lawmaker overseeing Democratic reelection campaigns in the House of Representatives is urging candidates to take ownership of health care reform and aggressively use the vote on the historic legislation against prospective opponents during the coming months.
"It's very important that people take responsibility and go on the offense," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) on Sunday evening. "People should be proud of what they have done because what they did was respond to the stories that they were hearing in their districts about people who found that the current system didn't work for them... [The Republicans are] the ones who win from the status quo and the American people lose from the status quo."
In an interview with the Huffington Post, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), urged Democrats to continuously remind voters in their districts just what they will gain from health care reform's passage. Calling the vote "historic", he framed it as a major breakthrough for the party's fortunes in the 2010 elections. By aggressively defending the bill, candidates can portray the Republican Party as either unsympathetic or unserious.
"This is going to be a turning point of this issue," Van Hollen said. "Because what people are going to find out is all the scare tactics, all the overheated rhetoric about how this was going to bring down the country are going to be shown untrue. Just today, John Boehner, the Republican leader, said this is going to cause Armageddon... So after the president signs the bill, people are going to see that the world did not come to an end."
"They based their strategy on the fear-mongering working," he added. "And what happened is the story of the American people prevailed over the fear-mongering."
The remarks reflect a growing sense of optimism within Democratic ranks that -- contrary to the conventional wisdom a few months ago -- health care reform can in fact boost the party's prospects in November. A senior Democratic official, who asked to speak about electoral philosophy on the condition on anonymity, said that leadership had essentially consigned itself to losing the House if health care reform had failed to be passed. Now that it's a signature away from being the law of the land, however, "the dynamics have changed."
Already, it is being reported that President Obama will embark on a public relations tour of sorts to sell the legislation, leaving Washington for trips to various states and districts around the country. Meanwhile, a progressive group allied with the White House, is already putting Van Hollen's aggressive posture into practice, releasing a series of television ads and robocalls attacking Republican members for their health care votes.
"Finally, Congress passed the health reform bill to reign in the power of the big insurance companies and guarantee that all Minnesotans can get the same kind of health insurance as members of congress," a version of the spot, produced by Americans United for Change, goes. "But our Congresswoman Michele Bachmann voted against that. She may think she's an "important" politician in Washington, but when it comes to health insurance, if it's good enough for her... shouldn't it be good enough for the rest of us?"