Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Stop Crying

Paul Waldman is upset that "compromise" between Democrats and Republican would involve liberal activists losing large chunks of their dream for state-run health care.  I mean if winning two straight elections based on a mismanaged war and a banking collapse doesn't entitle you transform health care, then what does?  I mean after all, elections have consequences right?

The problem is that the Republicans have, for the moment, won the public argument over whether the versions of Obamacare passed in 2009 were good policy.  That meant that Republicans had little to lose in opposing those plans and swing-district House Democrats and swing-state (which I guess now includes Massachusetts) Senate Democrats risked everything to support them. 

The unpopularity of Obamacare is really the story of the Senate Republicans' party discipline on the issue.  It ain't majic.  The Republican Senate moderates like Snowe and Collins are unprincipled and publicity-hungry, just like Ben Nelson, but have a keener sense of their political interests.  They would sell out Mitch McConnell for pez if they thought it would increase their approval ratings at home and get them the first segment on the 6:30 network news shows.  If Obamacare were polling in the mid-50s, at least one of the Maine Senators would have found that Obamacare + a big federal check for Maine (Moose moolah) = The Bipartisan Change America Needs.

That means that winning Republican support for a health care reform plan will involve substantive concessions.  All the whining about how the Democrats having won the last two elections obligates the Republicans to support Obamacare in return for some policy crumbs won't change the political incentives at work.  The Democrats have come up with two plans that alienate the vast majority of Republicans on substantive grounds.  The bills are unpopular, so the opportunistic "moderate" Republicans can't be bought off with some home-state bucks - heck they were so unpopular that the Democratic congressional leadership could barely buy off its own members.    

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