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Healthcare sets battle lines for mid-term elections

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With the passage of healthcare reform, the battle lines are firmly drawn for the congressional elections in November.

This will be a classic ideological war, the like of which we have rarely seen in the US.

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Republicans not only refused to vote for this package, their opposition was passionate and, at times, shrill.

They sense that President Barack Obama and the Democrats have crossed the line of fiscal responsibility and even common decency by using congressional procedures to pass the bill and offering perks to some recalcitrant Democrats to win their support.

Democratic voters have been mixed in their reaction to healthcare reform.

But I suspect that now an actual bill has been passed -- and with Republican opposition so firm -- the intensity of Democratic support will rise.

Without stronger sentiment, voter turnout for Democratic candidates will not match what is expected to be a high-intensity Republican vote.

The president and the Democrats will have to work strenuously to sell a fait accompli, something they have not done sufficiently up to now.

Republicans have an advantage on jobs and the economy -- no-one is suggesting that unemployment will significantly change by the fall.

The Tea Party (conservative) movement is also here to stay through November and the healthcare bill will fuel its charge of socialism against Mr. Obama.

But I am a historian, and "socialism" was the cry of opponents of the New Deal and Social Security, and it was the outcry against Medicare.

There are moments in history when decisions are ultimately made that transcend the charge of socialism in the American political consciousness.

This president was elected because he promised to be a problem solver and a consensus builder.

Thus far, he has moved towards solving a significant problem.

He has shown his supporters they can believe in his promise of change.

What remains to be seen is whether he can build a national consensus on what he has done.

John Zogby is chairman and chief insights officer of Zogby International, a polling company. He is the author of The Way We'll Be: The Zogby Report on the transformation of the American Dream.

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