Politically, for the Democrats to succeed in passing universal health care will be a disaster for Republicans that is worse than the failure of the Bush administration to deal with Katrina or the failure to discover WMD in Iraq. The middle class will love it, and the Democrats will lock up the middle class for a generation or more, much as they did after FDR passed Social Security.
Last night Hilzoy wrote Making It Explicit discussing this. Her conclusion is
Pethokoukis and Cannon claim that if Obama succeeds in passing health care, then people who might have been conservatives will like it, and will be more likely to vote for the people who passed it. This is unexceptional. An honest conservative might accept this claim and say: well, I guess our ideas are unpopular, so we'll just have to make our case more persuasively.This morning Steve Benen added his post THE RIGHT, HEALTHCARE, AND POLITICAL SURVIVAL.
But that's not the conclusion they draw. Pethokoukis and Cannon say: because people will like health care reform, if we do not block it, our party will lose support. So precisely because people would like it if they tried it, we need to make sure that it fails.
At least they're honest about it.
Today, the circumstances are slightly different -- Democrats are in good shape and don't need their reputation "revived" -- but with the Pethokoukis and Cannon analyses in mind, history may repeat itself.Essentially it's 1993 all over again. If the Democrats pass universal health care, the national Republican party will be relegated to the minority for a generation and they know it. So we can expect them to pull out all the stops to kill any health care bill.
Remember, for Kristol then and Pethokoukis/Cannon now, it's not about the quality of the policy -- it's about political survival. If Democrats deliver, they'll be positioned to win over a generation of voters. Blocking (or "killing") a reform effort may undermine the public's needs, but it would also block Democrats from winning a historic victory.
With that in mind, the right will likely aggressively resist healthcare reform because, as a matter of electoral strategy, conservatives probably don't have a choice.
Since these will be party line votes with heavy party discipline, it may have been a significant reason why Harry Reid and Barack Obama were willing to put up with Joe Lieberman's election campaign crap and leave him in as committee chairman just to make sure he did not bolt to the Republican Party. If Norm Coleman wins in Minnesota and Saxby Chambliss wins in Georgia, then the Democrats will almost certainly have to pull over two Republicans to defeat a filibuster by the Republican. As a Democrat, Lieberman is almost certainly a reliable vote to break a filibuster on this subject. That means Harry Reid only has to get two Republicans to break ranks - difficult but not impossible.
But if Joe went to the Republican caucus, or resigned and was replaced by a Republican Senator, then Harry Reid will need three Republican cross-overs. Paying off Joe to keep him in the caucus is a lot easier than getting that third Republican cross over.
It looks like Harry Reid and Barack Obama knew what they were doing with Joe Lieberman. Joe probably also knows.
Addendum 3:58 pm CST
Dday at Hullabaloo also writes on the Republican intention to block everything the Democrats attempt.
"A New Era Of Comity And BipartisanshipI wrote as early as last year that this Presidential election was going to be the nastiest in living memory. The Republicans certainly tried to make it so.
Somebody forgot to tell Mitch McConnell.Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday sent a message to Democrats that Republicans are not prepared to bend to a stronger majority.This is the Senate GOP that obstructed practically every major bill that Democrats tried to bring up for the last two years. That's not going to stop, regardless of how many Republicans are planted in the Cabinet or throughout the federal bureaucracy. At this point, Republicans aren't interested in winning the next election, they're interested in stopping any popular policy and beating this country into the ground."
In a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), McConnell urged Reid to adopt a more conciliatory tone and warned him that Republicans will unite against Democrats if he does not. The letter was signed by all 40 GOP senators and two Republican incumbents who are awaiting the results of elections in Georgia and Minnesota.
Now, though, they are going to get really serious about blocking any possible productive work out of the Congress.
They have to. They are in the "trapped rat" syndrome. They are absolutely convinced that if the Democrats do what they promised in the campaign, then the Republican Party will be relegated to the status of a minority party for the next generation.
The problem is that their obstructionist tactics in the face of the collapsing economy are going to make their loss even greater. Unfortunately, their only alternative is to give up conservative extremism in the form of market fundamentalism, political evangelical social conservatism and the international aggression of the neocons. They'd rather gamble on obstructionism.