Monday, March 08, 2010


Steve Benen is struck by the fact that Senator John Cornyn, who's in charge of efforts to get Republicans elected to the Senate in 2010, proclaims that the party will run against health care reform if it passes but won't pledge to put repeal in a platform his party's Senate candidates will all run on.

Steve sees this as a sign of weakness. I'm not so sure. This is a big country. In some states, Republicans will want to run as conservative, and in other states they'll want to run as really, really conservative. The truth is, they only need to have a few key beliefs in common across the board: (1) Reagan was a saint; (2) Obama is the Antichrist. There's probably a third one, but I can't remember what it is.

Steve says:

Substantively, repeal isn't realistic. Unless Republicans suddenly get supermajorities in both chambers and convince President Obama and Vice President Biden to step down, making room for President Boehner in 2011, the policy, if passed into law, isn't going anywhere.

But for Republican electoral strategists, that's a feature, not a bug. It means they get to carry this grievance through two election cycles minimum.

But that doesn't explain the mixed message from Cornyn this morning. The problem, which the NRSC chief is loath to acknowledge, is that repeal is a) a political loser; and b) an inconvenient demand from the Republican base.

Popular consumer protections would kick in immediately if reform becomes law -- including a ban on discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, the elimination of rescissions, a ban on annual or lifetime caps, etc. -- and voters will likely be reluctant to give them up. Indeed, Democratic candidates would likely use these new protections to go on the offensive, giving pro-reform Dems something to brag about, and anti-reform Republicans a position they might struggle to justify.

Wait, wait, wait: Democrats are going to "go on the offensive"? Democrats are going to start being good at messaging? DEMOCRATS?

I really have a problem with this argument. It's conventional wisdom on the left that the popularity of HCR will soar after passage, as people take advantage of all sorts of nifty provisions that kick in right away -- but really, how many Americans will either be in a position to take advantage of these provisions or know someone who is? Won't someone still need to persuade everyone else that "hey, this could be you someday, too"? Won't that someone be, um, the Democratic Party? Does that give you confidence that the message will be delivered? Does you really have confidence that Democratic messaging will trump Republican messaging, which will say that those few people getting benefits right away are welfare leeches taking the taxes of hardworking "real Americans"?

... Democrats are going to ask, "Are you really going to fight to repeal protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions? Are you really going to take coverage away from 30 million middle-class Americans?" ...

Well, I sure hope so.

Yeah, the president sounded feisty today. But that's today. This is going to require a sustained fight Democrats have had an exhausting fight to pass HCR, but they're going to have to fight just as hard after passage, if passage comes, to win the propaganda war. Remember, these are Republicans we're dealing with. They're still fighting the Civil War, fer crissake. They never consider any battle lost.

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