Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Suderman Option

Via Sullivan, Peter Suderman trots out a case for why Democrats would be better off in November if they did not pass health care reform:
Moreover, since the only way for the bill to pass at this point is to use the budget reconciliation process in the Senate, passing it would require relying on what will be portrayed as procedural trickery—a circumvention of the Senate's traditional process. Fair or not, I can't imagine that Republicans will talk about it any other way. And if we've learned anything about public opinion during this health care debate, it's that the public doesn't like either drawn out political debates or the messy details of the legislative process; passing the bill using reconciliation is only going to expose them to more of those details, and thus, I suspect, likely to make it even less popular.
 I think this is highly unlikely, and it would be a massive mistake for Democrats to follow that advise. 

It's worth mentioning, first of all, that "fair or not" is silly; of course such accusations would be unfair.  Reconciliation is thirty years old, and there's nothing at all wrong with using it to pass legislation.  What's more, pass and patch (or pass-then-patch) involves passing health care reform through perfectly normal, regular, procedures -- and then fixing the original bill through reconciliation.  Now, granted, Republicans are apt to complain about procedure, and it's true that Americans don't like partisan squabbles and don't like hearing about procedure.  But once the bill is passed, it seems very likely that the national press will tire of procedural complaints about a bill passed weeks, and then months, ago. 

Second, it's a real mistake for Democrats to worry too much about how Republicans will portray things that they do.  Republicans are naturally going to bash Democrats for everything; should Democrats respond by doing nothing?  Surely not.  Democrats should do things that they believe are good for the nation.  Democrats believe that health care reform is good for the nation.  They are, like it or not, going to be attacked for health care reform. Those who get their information only from Republican news sources will believe those attacks -- but people who get their information only from those sources are not swing voters. 

Suderman concludes:
So the choice for Democrats may actually be whether they want they want to be portrayed as so single-minded in their determination to push their unpopular agenda on the public that they are willing to use party-line voting and any sort of obscure procedural trickery they can come up with to get it passed, or whether they want to be able to make the argument that they responded to the public's clear concerns and backed off an incredibly unpopular piece of legislation when they had the chance.

This is, I'm sorry to say, ridiculous.  Forget about how Democrats will be "portrayed," since Democrats have no control over that, and Beck and Rush and everyone will be creative enough either way.   The real options are:

1.  Suderman option.  Democrats campaign on having done nothing, because all the things they wanted to do proved unpopular.

2.  Pass-then-patch option: Democrats campaign on closing the donut hole, ending rescissions, getting insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, and other items that they believe (and polling shows) will be popular.

Really, it comes down to this: if Democrats truly believe that their plan will be deservedly unpopular if passed -- that people will hate the individual mandate more than they like the benefits it brings -- then they should back off.  Not because of how it will be portrayed, but because of what the program actually does.  If, however, Democrats believe that once passed health care reform will rapidly become part of the scenery, the way that Social Security and Medicare have become, then it's not even a close case; the best political course for them is to pass the bill.


  1. As I told my Dem Rep, when the death panels don't appear, no R will want to remind people of what total bedwetting jackasses they were. It will all be a non-issue in a matter of weeks after passing.

  2. Suderman is showing his hand with his repetitions of the word "unpopular." (Not to mention the phrase "obscure procedural trickery," which applies more to routine filibustering than it does to fixing a bill through reconciliation.)

    As Nate Silver and many others have shown, most people are totally uninformed about the bill. When they are told what the bill contains, they largely approve of those individual components.

    Moreover, the bill isn't "incredibly unpopular" (as Suderman says) even among those uninformed voters. Even Rasmussen, a GOP-leaning pollster, says only 58% disapprove of the Senate bill. Once the patches are made (to remove the Nelson deal, reduce the excise tax, etc.), and the process issues are taken out of the media limelight (to be replaced by analyses of the law's benefits, coverage of the Rose Garden signing ceremony, etc.), that 58% will surely decrease.

    Finally, let's assume the bill IS still disapproved of by 58% of the electorate entering November (which is highly unlikely). Why on earth would someone vote for a Democrat just because he did an about-face on HCR when presented with bad polling? Wouldn't that voter want to punish the Democrat for advocating it in the first place?

    I just can't fathom a circumstance where killing the bill is more beneficial to a Democrat's re-election chances than passing the damn thing.

  3. Suppose:

    Nancy Pelosi puts the Senate Bill onto the House floor for an up or down vote, even though right now she does not have the votes to pass it?

    Suppose she announces the vote publicly, scheduled in one week. She delivers a nice speech about how it is not as good as the House bill, but is really not that different and is a huge step forward.

    Suppose she mentions a few key areas where the House wants changes, and expresses confidence they will pass the Senate because they will need only a majority vote.

    Suppose she then whips as hard as she can for a week. Will the holdouts really hold out, or will they cave, hold their noses, and vote for the bill?

  4. Yep.
    Doing nothing gets you nothing. It TRULY would have been a do-nothing Congress, and that's not a good thing to be in times when voters want "change." It would demotivate the base, and not a single Republican or Indie would change their mind and say "you know, Democrats WANT something I don't want, but they're not going to actually do it, so I'll vote for them."
    As a Dem, your bed is already made. Get the hell in it and get some sleep while you can.

  5. I mean Messaging 101... Suderman, Hello?

    The Reps put out ads saying "Little Jimmy died because of his law"... the Dems put out ads saying "Little Mary will live because she now has health insurance"... if the Dems get the drop, so much the better.

  6. Second, it's a real mistake for Democrats to worry too much about how Republicans will portray things that they do. Republicans are naturally going to bash Democrats for everything; should Democrats respond by doing nothing? Surely not.

    To be more precise, the Republican noise machine accuses Democrats of treason every single day. It is insane for Democrats to worry about the difference between being accused of (1) treason and (2) treason and procedural irregularities.

  7. You guys are out of your minds The people know what the healcare bill is about and don't want it. It's not that Obama hasn't shown leadership or explained it well enough...poppycock. Don't delude yourselves into thinking that the Brown election can be explained away by anything other than that turd bill, which is hopefully dead. If the Dems try to jam it through, there will be much more hell to pay than we've already seen. People are not as dumb as you, obama a Pelosi think they are.

  8. Anon., What makes you so sure that "people know what the healthcare bill is about and don't want it"? (other than the hard-on you get as a republican whose had little to cheer since 2004 and desperately needs to score some political points) Polling in fact suggests the exact opposite: people don't really know much about the bill, but they do favor most of the individual major components of the bill.

    What the public opposes is the caricature of the bill that's emerged after a year of disinformation. The irony is that we'll end up with something more radical in a decade or so when the system is in even greater crisis.

  9. anon2,

    What's not to know about adding a giant, bloated government beauracracy with lazy, imcompetant, don't give a sh*t, unfireable government employees running it?? People know it will suck!

    People want health care's needed. They just don't want this proposed pile of crap. Also, ask any doctor the deleterious affect liability has on the cost of medicine...any doctor!!!! Any plan that does not address liablilty reform is fundamentally unserious. 2000 page bill...zilch, nada, nothing on liablilty. Can you explain this to me?

  10. Howdy Folks,

    Welcome, and feel free to debate policy here if you like, but play nice or I'll start enforcing rules. Also, making rules. Basically, be polite & respectful to others, that sort of thing.


    The Management

  11. It seems we have been visited by our first troll. Please all, DO NOT TALK TO TROLLS.

  12. "Please all, DO NOT TALK TO TROLLS."

    I understand...why answer a serious question?


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