Friday, March 23, 2012


I've been critical of the way the Obama administration blithely assumed that opposition to the health care law would dissipate, so I'm not opposed in principle to Politico publishing a story (by Carrie Budoff Brown) called "5 Things Dems Got Wrong on Health Care." But Thing #1 is just ridiculous, a classic product of Beltway tunnel vision:

Passing a massive health care overhaul with no Republican support was one of the most fateful political decisions of the legislative fight....

Since Republicans had zero buy-in, they've been emboldened to thwart the law in every way possible....

When have Republicans ever let "buy-in" stop them from declaring total war on Democrats? The Wall Street bailout started under their president. Cap-and-trade was their idea. The individual mandate was a key feature of the health plan passed by their next presidential nominee when he was a governor (just getting a health care plan passed was an accomplishment he used to be proud of).

Do you seriously want to tell me that opposition to the Obama stimulus plan was muted thanks to those three GOP votes it got in the Senate? And the second most hated man in America among right-wingers, after Obama -- Eric Holder? There were eighteen Republican votes to confirm him.

And look, this can go both ways. Democrats ran an anti-war presidential candidate in 2004 who'd voted for the war, and nearly did so again in 2008.

Brown goes on to fudge her point:

The administration's pursuit of Republican votes through 2009 is the reason the health care fight dragged on, diverting attention for more than a year from Americans' top concerns: the economy and jobs....

Obama needed to chase Republican support to show skittish moderate Democrats that he at least tried, and he needed to abandon the effort once it became abundantly clear that the GOP had no plans to work with him if wanted a law.

He had to go it alone with Democrats, but the decision came at a price.

I'll agree that letting the bipartisan dance drag on was a huge mistake, because it allowed the Astroturf anger to build and the conspiracy theories to spread -- but Brown seems to see two mistakes here: letting the process drag on and proceeding without Republicans at the end. The latter is of interest only to the tiny, insular world of the Beltway. Really, test me on this: go poll some Americans and ask them if they can tell you how many Republican votes the health care bill got. Make the question multiple choice and throw in some small GOP numbers as possible answers, and see if people have any idea what the votes were. I'd bet real money that they don't.

You know how corporations have to do damage control after a disaster like, say, the Tylenol killings? And you know how they sometimes have to do damage control after negative information spreads that's utterly crazy, like the rumors that the Procter & Gamble symbol was satanic? Anger at the health care bill was like P&G's problem, except the magnitude was at a Tylenol level. When it came to what people believed about the bill, it's as if you had crazy P&G-style rumors, but the level of belief in them attained the level of belief in the actual fact of the Tylenol deaths. And Team Obama never grasped that it needed a huge effort to change the narrative. That was the big problem, not the lack of token GOP support.

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