IT WASN'T THE BILL. IT WAS THE FIGHT.
Jane Hamsher is crowing because Democrats are struggling at the polls and at least one analyst, Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics, thinks the health care bill started the Democrats' slide:
... Democrats ignored the political problem of health care in the fall and winter – arguing that Martha Coakley and Creigh Deeds were bad candidates, that voters had been turned off by the health care bill because of the process, and that they would come around once the many benefits kicked in. Now, they're pointing to the economy as the only significant reason why the party is in trouble.
It would be difficult for any strong partisan to admit that such an accomplishment was so deeply unpopular. Yet the polling is pretty unequivocal on the relationship between the Democrats' fortunes and the health care bill. It was during the health care debate that the essential building block of the Democratic majority – Independent voters – began to crumble....
Hamsher boasts that she saw doom as far back as the early part of this year. Well, I've been worried about the political consequences of the bill for a while, too -- since at least as far back as June '09, when the timetable for passage first began to break down.
Hamsher focuses on the individual mandate -- a feature of the bill that's annoying to progressives and also infuriating to teabag types. But I think she's missing the real point -- that Republicans won this politically, attacking things that were in the bill and things that weren't, describing the bill and the process of writing and passing it accurately or wildly inaccurately, as it suited them, and, overall, unleashing thermonuclear war on a White House and party that didn't even recognize, until it was much too late, that any dangerous weapons at all were in use.
What I'm trying to say is that Republicans would have succeeded in souring the public on any bill the Democrats put forward -- mandate, no mandate, public option, no public option, even (perhaps especially) a single-payer bill. Democrats were just staggeringly overmatched.
I essentially agree with Hamsher when she says this:
Rather than focus on jobs creation in a country with climbing unemployment rates, Obama spent the better part of a year focused on passing a health care bill that looks like it will play no small part in the Democratic Party's upcoming electoral woes
But I don't think it's the specifics of the bill that are hurting the Democrats. They didn't have the firepower to defend any bill, and didn't realize they needed firepower.
And I also think it's the failure on jobs that's really killing Democrats. If jobs were coming back, Democrats would hold the House and Senate this fall, health care bill or not.