Sunday, November 07, 2010

We Were The Underpants Gnomes We Were Waiting For

Megan McArdle comes up with my favorite theory for describing the Democrats' ill-fated decision to pass nationalized health care and why they believed it wouldn't hurt them at the polls...

How much did health care matter in Tuesday's results?  A lot, argues Eric McGhee; in fact, it may have helped cost Democrats control of the House...

I'm still sort of awed that Democrats managed to convince themselves otherwise.  It was the Underpants Gnome theory of politics:

1.  Pass huge, unpopular bill
2.  ???
3.  Bounce in the polls

None of the arguments ever made any sense, and at the time, I assumed that the people advancing them were simply spinning for the media.  But as time wore on, it became clear that at least some of them actually believed it, including people who voted yes on the bill and then went to their doom. 
Those who seem to think that the election was decided simply by the poor state of the economy are ignoring reality.  The 60+ seat wipeout in the House represents more than just voter frustration with poor economic performance.  It also represents voter anger and discontent with a Congress that ignored thier wishes and pissed on their constiuents by passing a huge new health care entitlement.

It's important to note that Democrats still seem hell-bent on defending the bill, but they almost always fall back on defending the "popular provisions" of the bill, such as the ban on pre-existing conditions and the ability of parents to keep their kids on their insurance until they are 26.  They cannot defend the rest of the legislation amongst mixed company, because when they try, they get challenged on less-than-credible claims like the assertion that the bill will trim the budget deficit.  I don't even think many Democrats believes that claim. 

Mickey Kaus makes the related point that the sales pitch for health care was one guaranteed to lose senior votes, because of the realistic concern about death panels.  This may provide some comfort to Dems who truly believe that the problem with health care was the "messaging" and also have them arguing that Obama and Co. cost themselves votes by being honest in selling the program.  This would ignore two basic points: 

1.  If messaging was the problem, then the bill really would have become more popular after passage (it has not) and Pelosi's stupid claim that they had to pass the bill so we could find out what was in it might actually make some sense.

2.  Any honesty in the claims made about the health care bill is effectively offset by the Dems' gaming of the CBO score and the procedural shenanigans they engaged in to pass the bill.

So where does that leave us?  Well, back to the gnomes...

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