David Frum is worried:
What would it mean to “win” the healthcare fight?
For some, the answer is obvious: beat back the president’s proposals, defeat the House bill, stand back and wait for 1994 to repeat itself.
The problem is that if we do that… we’ll still have the present healthcare system. Meaning that we’ll have (1) flat-lining wages, (2) exploding Medicaid and Medicare costs and thus immense pressure for future tax increases, (3) small businesses and self-employed individuals priced out of the insurance market, and (4) a lot of uninsured or underinsured people imposing costs on hospitals and local governments.
We’ll have entrenched and perpetuated some of the most irrational features of a hugely costly and under-performing system, at the expense of entrepreneurs and risk-takers, exactly the people the Republican party exists to champion.
Frum seems to be operating under the illusion that the Republicans will be blamed for this, which I think is unlikely. Obama will be held responsible for the failure, just as Clinton was. it will be seen as a failure of legislative tactics ---- that's how liberal politics is discussed. (I do it too, of course, just like every other political blowhard.) This is especialy true of health care, which has been exclusively seen and mapped out as a tactical challenge since Harry Truman failed to pass comprehensive reform in the 1940s. It's why we got health care for the elderly when Johnson had the liberal mandate rather than universal coverage. And the predictable result of failure this time will be that when health care comes to the table again some years down the road (when the crisis is even more acute) the lessons learned will be all about legislative tactics as well. They wil fight the last war --- again.
Frum is fretting over the actual repercussions of failing to reform the health care system, which is completely beside the point for his fellow Republicans. Health care has officially joined the "faith based" constellation of issues, which includes global warming and evolution. They are now simply denying there is a crisis at all. And if there is one, there is simply no solution other than prayer and dogmatic belief in American exceptionalism and free markets.
The next couple of weeks will tell us whether the Republican obstructionism will result in backlash and give the progressives some room to maneuver. It's always possible the wingnuts have succumbed to hubris again --- having Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as the spokesmen for their obstructionism might end up being a mistake similar to having Newtie push the government shut-down back in 1995. They often overreach and the hysterical, far right rhetoric people are seeing at these Town Halls may not resonate in the rest of the country quite the way the villagers think it will. We'll see.
But regardless of what actually happens, if health reform fails, I believe that when the history is written it will be seen as a Democratic failure. If you put an issue on the table and are given a mandate to enact it, you are blamed for its failure, particularly when the whole promise of your campaign was based upon the magical notion that you would change the very nature of the political system. Sadly, if that happens, the likely result will not be a newly invigorated, liberal president with lessons learned and a fresh approach. It will be a chastened and weakened president newly committed to the status quo, just as the Village ordered from the beginning. And that, in the end, may be what was being promised all along: symbolism over substance. It wouldn't be the first time.