Thursday, March 18, 2010


Here's Time's Jay Newton-Small, arguing that the bad press for the Democrats' efforts to pass health care reform is going to be a thing of the past soon:

If you pass the bill, next week's coverage is likely to trumpet triumph, the most productive legislative session since LBJ, an historic and seminal victory.

Will it? That's the way these things are supposed to go, according to the long-standing customs of our political culture -- the passage of a big bill is supposed to be remembered with images of a triumphant signing ceremony and newsmagazine cover stories about the historic nature of the legislative advance.

But our political narrative regards the major Democratic players, Obama excepted, as clowns rather than heroes. And the take-no-prisoners, blitz-on-every-play modern GOP doesn't have much respect for long-standing customs. So if the bill passes, I wonder whether the coverage is going to be along the lines of "triumph -- or disaster?," given the fact that the Republican Party clearly plans to continuing litigating this issue. I can also easily imagine that the GOP will try to be a skunk at the garden party, scheduling a high-profile event on the day the bill is passed or signed to announce its strategy for seeing to it that it never takes effect. (I don't think it matters whether this effort can succeed. The Republicans think it's a base motivator for November, and that's all that matters.)

Newton-Small adds: Paul Begala told the House Democratic Caucus yesterday, does anyone think that voters at the polls in November will remember self-executing rules and the Cornhusker kickback?

Oh, hell yes. I absolutely do.

Newton-Small's follow-up to this is:

They didn't remember Tom DeLay's arm twisting (which won him a reprimand from the House Ethics Committee) on the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, no matter how hard Dems tried to remind them.

Well, that's because Democrats (a) are lousy messagers, (b) didn't respond to the passage of the Medicare bill by continuing to demonize it relentlessly, which is what Republicans will do to HCR, and (c) never constructed an overall narrative that portrayed Republicans as people who defile the American way on a routine basis.

That's the GOP narrative about Democrats: that "government takeovers" are un-American, that "czars" are un-American, that "backroom deals" and reconciliation and deem-and-pass are unprecedented betrayals of our system of government ... that it's all a forced march down the road to serfdom. The base will absolutely remember self-executing rules and the Cornhusker kickback, because this Dems-as-totalitarians narrative is a crystal, and Fox and talk radio will make sure as many Democratic deeds as possible are made to stick to it. A few more things Democrats do between now and November will be added to the bill of particulars -- it will all be fitted to a tale of republic-crushing, freedom-defiling evil.

It would be nice if a significant number of HCR benefits kicked in between now and November, but not enough do. Yes, the benefits that do kick in could be well received. Non-Fox fans will notice that the sky isn't falling. But the GOP message machine will say: No it isn't -- not yet.

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