Democrats in Washington have accused Republicans of playing politics by opposing President Barack Obama's health care reform policies.

Whether partisan or principled, Republicans are doing just that and the American people can see it. But the failure of Democrats to win electoral support for health care reform is not due to Republican obstruction, but rather, because the American people can smell a phony.

Americans don't begrudge a snake oil medicine show rolling into town promising a cure to arthritis, influenza, gout, a weak libido, tooth aches, a poor metabolism, acne and a humped-back. What with the charismatic salesman, scarlet banners, a dancing bear, carnival music and testimonials it can be quite entertaining. They might even buy a few bottles of elixir which if nothing else could provide a toddy before bed. Most see the miracle cure salesman for what he is: a profiteer not a physician.

Obama and the Democrats are politicians, not physicians. People see it clearly.

Some voters bought the hope that Obama would be different, a post-partisan president. They even bought his $787 billion stimulus elixir that promised to prevent unemployment from exceeding 8 percent. The current unemployment rate is 9.7 percent and growing. That was one expensive toddy.

The broken promise of the stimulus reminds Americans of when other politicians have come through town promising Social Security and Medicare in exchange for a piece of their weekly paychecks. Now the government projects Medicare to be bankrupt within a decade; and Social Security before many (myself for example) can draw it.

Last week Rasmussen reported 68 percent of voters believe Obama's health care reform will create a larger deficit; 80 percent expect its passage would lead to higher taxes for the middle class. Despite a month of town hall medicine shows by Democrats, Gallup reports more Americans oppose Obama's health care reform than support it.

The American people simply do not believe the advertised benefits of health care reform. They believe it will help special interests.

Case in point is the billions of dollars spent on health care as a result of lawsuit abuse. Lex Taylor, Chairman of Mississippians for Economic Progress (MFEP), recently wrote that lawsuits burden the American medical system with $30 billion a year nationally. (In full disclosure, MFEP is a sometimes client of mine.)

Taylor argued for a number of health care improvements to decrease defensive medicine, increase the number of physicians and improve patient access and care. He quoted Democratic health care reform leader Senator Max Baucus who believes medical malpractice reform is necessary for true health care reform.

Here is a component of health care consuming billions of dollars for lawyers in courtrooms, not physicians in hospitals. Here is a leader among health care reform Democrats calling for tort reform. Here is an issue Republicans would support. Here is an issue Americans, from their own defensive medicine experiences, know increases costs. This is a no-brainer for reform, right?

Wrong. Because this is not about health care policy, this is about health care politics.

Last month at a Virginia town hall meeting former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean - a former governor and physician - explained, "Here is why tort reform is not in the bill. When you go to pass a really enormous bill like that the more stuff you put in, the more enemies you make, right? And the reason why tort reform is not in the bill is because the people who wrote it did not want to take on the trial lawyers."

If health care reform were truly about policy, tort reform would be in the debate. But health care reform in Washington is about politics and in this case, it's about not upsetting one of the Democratic Party's largest political and financial constituencies: trial lawyers. Politics as usual: special interests win out over individual citizens.

Don't get me wrong: I love politics. I love the fights, the campaigns, the debates. And despite polling that suggests they dislike politicians, Americans love politics, too. Politics is engrained on our national DNA from colonial town halls to Facebook yardsigns; from tavern debates to Twitter updates.

But Democrats are disingenuous when they suggest their motives are clean. And they missed an opportunity for true bipartisan reform.

When President George W. Bush passed the epic "No Child Left Behind" legislation, he co-opted the support of Senator Ted Kennedy, the leading liberal voice nationwide on education. Whether they supported or opposed the policy, most Americans truly believed Bush and Kennedy thought it was a good policy.

Today, some people oppose health care reform because they oppose Obama and the Democrats; some people support health care reform because they support Obama and the Democrats. But even among them, who actually believes Obama and the Democrats?

America has seen this medicine show before.

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at