Sunday, March 21, 2010

Get Ready

The oddest thing about the health care debate, at least in my view, is that Republicans basically did not engage on the actual substance of the bill.  Lots of stuff about death panels, and lots of stuff about procedure, lots of stuff about backroom deals (most of which will be gone after reconciliation) but shockingly little about the individual mandate -- or, as Tim Noah points out, about the actual taxes that really are being raised for this.  The only real substantive complaint they highlighted was Medicare, where they argued against their own position. 

Now that the bill will pass (and I write this just after the Stupak press conference), the question becomes: what will the GOP run on this fall?  Most of their arguments are basically knocked out by the passage of the bill; no one will care any more about reconciliation (well, no one cared about it in the first place, but it's even less useful as time goes on).  They could continue to complaint about spending and deficits (although not, I don't think, about taxes going into effect right away but not benefits, since that won't make much sense to most voters who don't see it happening).  Death panels and rationing and socialism and the rest?  I don't think so.

Here's what they will do: Republicans will now run against the current health care system.  Just as they blamed Barack Obama for every job lost in February and March 2009, they're now going to blame Democrats for every insurance rate increase, every medical error, every complex insurance form, and basically anything that goes wrong with medical care or medical insurance, beginning March 22, 2010. 

That's what Democrats should be prepared for.  Against it, Democrats have the list of changes that go into effect right away, and the sensible arguments that the various problems in the system weren't caused by a bill that is only beginning to go into effect.  I don't know who wins that argument -- and, of course, the effects of winning and losing that argument are only marginally important to 2010 and 2012 elections -- but that's the argument we're about to hear.  Bad things happen in health care all the time; I'll be very, very surprised if we don't hear conservatives blaming one of those bad things on the brand-new law some time before Easter. 

Ready for it?


  1. The Republicans chose not to participate because they thought they could block HCR. Why compromise if you can win?

    They chose zero sum rather than non-zero sum, and the problem with zero sum is that when you lose you lose.

    Was it a bad decision? Considering how HCR is making it by a hair's breadth it is a bad decision only with the benefit of hindsight. The Republicans took a risk and they just barely lost. Could they have reasonably foreseen just how dedicated and resourceful and skillful Pelosi and Obama turned out to be?

    The Republican decision to refuse to participate was odd in that it was unusual, and following this loss I suspect the Republicans might start getting a bit more conciliatory.

    The problem they have made for themselves is that a refusal to participate gave them no incentive to describe HCR as anything besides unmitigated deviltry. They had no reason to reign in the least moderate voices; Palin, Beck, Limbaugh. They joined in!

    After framing all conflicts in apocalyptic terms it will be hard for them to walk back without enraging the base they have stoked to a fever pitch.

    This is going to make it harder for them in November than it should be, considering how bad the economy is.

  2. Just saw fox news correspondent Carl Cameron say that democrats have now said that insurance for 350 million will run smoothly, they'll be stuck to that, and won't be able to defend it. Seems like Easter is happening a bit early this year.

  3. Could they have reasonably foreseen just how dedicated and resourceful and skillful Pelosi and Obama turned out to be?
    I think they had a blind spot there; we could see that earlier this year when Obama skunked them at the health care reform "summit" because they had started believing their own story about how he is a stuffed shirt who can't speak without a teleprompter.

  4. From a tactical respective, the Republicans have always simply positioned themselves as being relatively less statist than the Democrats. This is very different from saying that they oppose health care reform. In fact, they could easily support much of the Democrats' plans, as long as their positions were still relatively less statist.

    This is a position that allows them to collect considerable rents that come with controlling government while at the same time pacify those small-government segments of society that genuinely oppose bills like this. So it is not completely surprising that they decided to take a position that, in the end, enabled the passage of this bill. In the short run, it may seem like a political misjudgment. In the long run, it will help them increase their share of wealth and power in our redistributive state.


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