It looks like the pundits are going to have to find a new third rail for the American political scene.
For those of you whose acquaintance with mass transit may be limited or non-existent, the third rail is the rail on subway tracks that carries the electrical power and has the ability to fry you crisper than something you can buy at KFC if you happen to touch it.
So, for many years the expression has been used to identify an issue that would supposedly incinerate a politician if he or she were to come out in favor of it while the public was supposedly opposed.
But as society changes, so does the third rail. At one time, voting rights for women was such an issue. For a long time, gay rights had the distinction (and, indeed, the issue of gay marriage still does, to a degree).
But the ultimate third rail issue, at least for as long as I’ve been covering this business, has been universal health care, otherwise known by its House Un-American Activities Committee-sanctioned moniker, “socialized medicine.”
Just ask Hillary Clinton, who for years after the health care debacle of the early Clinton administration looked somewhat extra crispy around the edges, as if she was still sporting the scars of contact with the third rail.
My, my, how things have changed.
So many politicians are talking up and talking about universal health care that this third rail now seems to be the victim of a power blackout.
It’s funny how a few things–nearly consistent double-digit rate increases in health insurance costs over a decade or more, the mushrooming of the uninsured population, the utter fear that grips people at the possibility of being without health insurance, and the way health insurance is squeezing other employer-provided benefits–have deprived this once lethal issue of its power to annihilate.