Monday, March 01, 2010

The Health Care Follies Continue

Andy McCarthy worries that the Democrats will ignore public opinion and enact Obamacare...
I hear Republicans getting giddy over the fact that "reconciliation," if it comes to that, is a huge political loser. That's the wrong way to look at it. The Democratic leadership has already internalized the inevitablility of taking its political lumps. That makes reconciliation truly scary. Since the Dems know they will have to ram this monstrosity through, they figure it might as well be as monstrous as they can get wavering Democrats to go along with. Clipping the leadership's statist ambitions in order to peel off a few Republicans is not going to work. I'm glad Republicans have held firm, but let's not be under any illusions about what that means. In the Democrat leadership, we are not dealing with conventional politicians for whom the goal of being reelected is paramount and will rein in their radicalism. They want socialized medicine and all it entails about government control even more than they want to win elections. After all, if the party of government transforms the relationship between the citizen and the state, its power over our lives will be vast even in those cycles when it is not in the majority. This is about power, and there is more to power than winning elections, especially if you've calculated that your opposition does not have the gumption to dismantle your ballooning welfare state.

Consequently, the next six weeks, like the next ten months, are going to be worse than we think. We're wired to think that everyone plays by the usual rules of politics — i.e., if the tide starts to change, the side against whom it has turned modifies its positions in order to stay viable in the next election. But what will happen here will be the opposite. You have a party with the numbers to do anything it puts its mind to, led by movement Leftists who see their window of opportunity is closing. We seem to expect them to moderate because that's what everybody in their position does. But they won't. They will put their heads down and go for as much transformation as they can get, figuring that once they get it, it will never be rolled back. The only question is whether there are enough Democrats who are conventional politicians and who care about being reelected, such that they will deny the leadership the numbers it needs. But I don't think we should take much heart in this possibility. Those Democrats may well come to think they are going to lose anyway — that's why so many of them are abandoning ship now. If that's the case, their incentive will be to vote with the leadership.
Ed Morrissey thinks this worry is overblown...
They didn’t gain the majority by elected over 300 cardboard cutouts of Nancy Pelosi as Representatives and Senators. While Andy is spot-on about Pelosi and her clique being descendants of the New Left radicals of the 1960s (as is Barack Obama), that’s not true for a large portion of their caucus, especially those representing red districts and red states. Not only is political suicide much more likely for them than it is for Pelosi, Anthony Weiner, Jarrold Nadler, et al, they’re temperamentally different from the leadership clique as well.

That doesn’t mean that they can’t get bulldozed into compliance, but it does make it a more difficult proposition for Pelosi to hold her caucus together. We’re already seeing signs of it splintering, and as this effort gets closer to the midterm elections, that will increase proportionately. Blue Dogs are already unhappy with the direction of ObamaCare — and so are progressives, but for diametrically opposed reasons. The summit may have helped to pull recalcitrant moderates in line, but Democrats got punked at the televised spectacle and have no fig leaf to wear to support a radical mechanism in pushing through a radical bill.
I don't want to rely on the Democrats acting logically at this point, although I think Morrissey's point is actually pretty strong. At this point, I tend to think moderate Democrats don't want to to have to take a vote on health care reform. They just wish the damn thing would go away and die, so that their political careers don't. Many on the left are making the counter-argument that it would be worse not to pass a bill at this point, which if true is absolutely hilarious to me. I'm not sure how that works -- passing what the majority of the public perceive as a crappy bill and what the left perceives as insufficient will somehow keep Democrats from losing as badly? I found this little quote from Juan Williams of NPR, appearing on Fox News Sunday, illuminating...
But not coming from the -- the difference here is that Rahm Emanuel is a hardball political player. And his attitude towards the health care reform deal, towards cap-and-trade and these other things that have not come to pass, is, Don't worry about public opinion. We've got a Democratic majority on the Hill. We'll focus on the Democratic majority. We'll focus on the process and we will get it done.

And the big failure on health care, as we've just discussed in the previous panel, is the American people aren't eating the dog food. So if that's the case, you've got to go out there and sell, and you've got to do it effectively.
Williams is clearly discussing the issue from the perspective of whether Rahm Emanuel gets to fall on his sword if health care fails. But it's more telling that Williams, who is a committed liberal, analogizes the Democrats health care reform package to dog food. And how you can't get the public to eat dog food. It reminds us of the Simpsons episode where Bart gives up his dog, Santa's Little Helper, in exchange for a brilliant superdog named Laddie. Bart soon realizes he wants his old dog back and gives Laddie away as well, but bursts into tears telling his family that he wants to get back Santa's Little Helper. Homer comforts Bart and tries to encourage his son to take action instead of crying...
Homer: "Well, crying isn't gonna bring him back, unless your tears smell like dog food. So you can either sit there crying and eating can after can of dog food until your tears smell enough like dog food to make your dog come back -- or you can go out there and find your dog."

Bart: (drying tears) "You're right! I'll do it." (sprints out of the kitchen)

Homer: (upset) "Rats. I almost had him eating dog food!"
Back to the issue at hand. I think the Beltway opinion on this reflects the point that plenty of Democrats don't want to deal with this issue any more. I think President knew that, and tried the summit in an attempt to change the narrative, if not shift the momentum entirely (and yes, I'm aware of the fact that if use the word "gamechange", it would tie the record for most overused political cliches in one paragraph). That didn't succeed; even though the health care plan got more support than it has since November in the Rasmussen poll, it's still sucking wind with very passionate opponents at 43% versus passionate supporters at 22%. Yet the Democratic leadership is putting on a public face of insistence that they will move this bill through to signature. And the Dems even picked up a vote today, with the resignation of a GOP Congressman making it necessary for Pelosi to only net 216 votes instead of 217.

The real question is whether that public face is a bluff, or reflects the real determination that they can and will get something done. I believe the arm-twisting has started in private and public, and will continue all month until the Dems can get a deal. What's working against a deal is the fact that everyone is also setting the table to be able to blame someone else if it falls through -- the Senate will blame the House, the House will blame the Senate, the President will blame both houses, and all three will blame the GOP. At the same time, more people in the middle are supporting the idea of starting over. Here's Warren Buffett...

There's the opening for the President, if he wants to take it. Perhaps that's why we're seeing some movement toward a smaller bill now...
President Obama will soon propose a health care bill that will be "much smaller" than the House bill but "big enough" to put the country on a "path" toward health care reform, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday.

"In a matter of days, we will have a proposal," Pelosi said, pointing to Obama's forthcoming bill.

"It will be a much smaller proposal than we had in the House bill because that's where we can gain consensus. But it will be big enough to put us on a path of affordable, quality health care for all Americans that holds insurance companies accountable."

A senior administration official told Fox Obama's proposal will be introduced Wednesday.

Melody Barnes, a top Obama domestic policy adviser, did not dispute Pelosi's characterization of the new plan as smaller in scope -- and quite possibly in cost -- than either the House or Senate health care bills.
The real question is whather such a smaller bill is actually a real effort at moderation or a political prop designed to get moderate Dems on board. My guess is the latter, because I doubt Pelosi would stay in line if it wasn't sufficient to the left. This thing isn't dead yet -- I get the feeling that we need to sweat out everyone of the 247 days between now and November 3rd before we can feel like Obamacare has gone by the wayside.

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