Thursday, November 04, 2010

Damn right it was worth it

Jonathan Chait takes up Ross ("Really, the New York Times?") Douthat's (tired and wheezy) argument that the Dems focus on comprehensive health care reform and the stimulus were the reason they were hammered at the polls this week. Setting aside the stimulus (and note, Douthat ignores the bank and auto bailouts that came about before Obama entered office), which with 9+% unemployment and most mainstream economists agreeing it was necessary to stave off a massive depression. And also setting aside the fact that health care reform has been the dream of Democrats for 60 years, was at the center of Obama's (and H. Clinton's) campaign, and was demanded by the base, was health care reform "worth it?" Chait responds,

But let's accept Douthat's premise for a moment that the decision to pursue comprehensive health reform hurt Democrats. Would I accept the trade-off? Yes, I would. Chances like this simply don't come along very often.

I'd also note that the decision to pursue a comprehensive plan was as much a GOP choice as a Democratic choice. Numerous Democrats in the Senate were desperate for bipartisan cover and only mildly committed to comprehensive reform. If any Republican Senators had put a deal on the table, almost any deal at all, however puny, at least one of those Democrats would have jumped at it. But Republicans were following Mitch McConnell's astute analysis that any bill with bipartisan support would become popular, and thus that withholding bipartisan support would hurt the Democrats but not Republicans. Republicans persistently followed an all-or-nothing strategy, and Democrats took all.

Which is to say, if Douthat is correct about his political premises, both parties had to choose between politics and policy. Democrats could have minimized their losses at the cost of sacrificing the health reform they wanted. Or Republicans could have minimized the scope of health care reform, at the cost of minimizing their potential wave. Democrats chose the best policy, and Republicans chose the best politics. I'm happy with the choice. Mitch McConnell won his election, and Democrats won health care reform. The latter is going to [be] around a lot longer than the former.

Well, assuming the latter survives the Roberts Court.

But I agree. I'm sorry stand-up guys like Perriello lost after voting to do the right thing for his (mostly rural, extremely impoverished, and mostly right-leaning) constituents, but doing the wrong thing would probably not have save his job, anyway. Just too much long-term unemployment, distress, anger, fear, and, well, old, to avoid "the wave."

With Republicans set to take control of the House, a number of the reforms' provisions will be slower to take affect due to lack of funding. Ironically, those provisions will likely be the ones best designed to control costs and lower the deficit, but you know the words to that song by now and Irony has been dead for a long time. But they will eventually have an impact on people's lives for the better. It was better to grab that chance -- along with consumer protections, financial reform, and workplace equality legislation passed by one of the hardest working, most progressive Congresses in 50 years -- than to let that historic chance that was briefly theirs in 2009 slip through Democrats' fingers.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home

Weblog Commenting by Site Meter