Reflecting Back on the Republican Strategy

From “socialism” to “death panels,” it should be clear to anyone who makes an honest approach to the issue that the Republican strategy, from day one, was nothing but a scorched-earth rhetorical assault, light on substance to the point of complete avoidance. Any real clash we saw occurred at the existential level: “small government” is good, “spending” is bad, government regulation is “unconstitutional,” etc. Consequentially, although, as noted during closing debates, the final health care bill includes over 200 Republican amendments, it lacks any real allusion to Republican principles. That’s not a function of our refusal to accept input — Obama offered concessions, but was rejected at every turn — it’s a function of the Republicans’ complete refusal to bargain in good faith. Now they’ll pay for it, in a couple significant ways.

Despite this, Republicans seem happy. To discern why, we might attempt this post hoc thought experiment: what, if anything, did Republicans gain for their efforts?

Two things: time, and the death of the public option.

The former comes as proof positive that to the GOP, obstructionism is a value. The latter is odd because of this point: the public option would’ve cost somewhere in the ballpark of $850 billion, and saved $110 billion over ten years. The current plan will cost over $940 billion — while resulting in larger long, long term savings. By screeching about “socialism” and “fiscal restraint,” the GOP torpedoed a bill that was more effective, in terms of both cost and coverage, and re-injected a dose of paranoia and irrationalism into the public discourse.

Even if we give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt, and imagine that the latter is just a means and not the end itself, that’s a pretty terrible result. At the beginning of this long struggle, Democrats could reasonably have wondered if any victory would, by the end, look largely Pyrrhic. Now we have to ask whether Democrats haven’t just dealt the Republican Party a defeat, but a total defeat, the kind from which an ideology, or a particular method of governing, never truly recovers. Not a Waterloo, but a Zama. To see if they’ve learned anything, I imagine we’ll have to wait for the next controversy.

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12 comments

  1. “Now we have to ask whether Democrats haven’t just dealt the Republican Party a defeat, but a total defeat, the kind from which an ideology, or a particular method of governing, never truly recovers.”

    Submitted to a Candid World…better than the morning funnies!

  2. Hey, even Politico’s saying that this was an irresponsible strategy that could only be justified by eventual success. So….

    1. Yeah – it may have been an irresponsible strategy (and that is debateable) but you’re making an enormous leap in the statement that I highlighted above.

      Furthermore, much of the hoped-for success of this bill is theoretical at best. Come 2016 or so I don’t know that this won’t look like a death-blow for liberalism.

    2. oneiroi · ·

      Immediately after passing, it went positive in the polls.

      I also say, that come November, any possibly ramification due to health care reform (as you mentioned Mike) won’t be felt, if things will be as Republicans claim. Especially since most of it is enacted later and economic results always come slowly. And the ones with immediate affects, help NOW.

      So in the end, Democrats will have something to point to that they’ve accomplished, “tax credits to small business to provide insurance, a ban on insurance exclusion for pre-existing conditions, a ban on lifetime coverage caps, and letting twentysomethings stay on their parents’ policies.” All very popular accomplishments.

      And Republicans will have accomplished…well they tried really hard to stop everything Democrats did. If economy continually goes up, what else do the Republicans have to point to that they’ve done?

      In the end, everyone admits the party of the president loses seats in the next election, but I don’t think it will be devastating (like civil rights).

      Just because Republicans are yelling loudly, doesn’t mean there’s a large crowd.

  3. The public has 7 months to get ‘educated’ on the bill by pundits, politicians, analysts, etc. There’s a reason Democrats wanted to stall implementation to 2014. They want to hope the public stays dumb on what actually is in that bill. Otherwise, why not roll it out now and reap the rewards?

    1. oneiroi · ·

      Because, it gives doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, time to actually roll this out instead of making them suddenly have to deal with the millions of more people involved.

      1. They need four years?!

      2. oneiroi · ·

        Yes? I supposed it was part of the way they could get it passed. By making sure everyone had time to get ready for major health care changes. So that we wouldn’t suddenly have thousands of extra people waiting for health care. And as others have said ,this is only part of it.

        If this was put into affect any quicker, I’m sure there would be complaints from the right for rushing it through.

        1. So the bill contains money for hiring more doctors, nurses, expanding hospitals, etc? What measures will be taken to ‘get ready’ for all these new patients and how is the government funding the prep?

        2. oneiroi · ·

          Yes, the money they’re bringing in their pockets.

          Hiring, equipment, etc.

        3. oneiroi · ·

          They’re being slow to roll out everything so that it’s done right. I’m sorry if you think that’s wrong. I can’t solve every nitpick.

    2. Claiming that the bill won’t be implemented until 2014 is hardly the whole story, as even a simple glance at Wikipedia will show. The bill introduces a long range of reforms, some of which happen immediately, while others will be implemented as late as 2018.

      That said, it’s correct that some important provisions won’t take effect until 1/1/2014. I’m not positive, but I believe this was implemented in the Senate bill; the House version envisioned a much shorter timetable.

      So I guess you’d have to ask Harry Reid why that is. To me it looks like another concession to insurance interests. (Nice try making it look like a Democratic conspiracy, though).

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