David Frum is very wrong in his argument that Republicans should have tried to compromise with the Senate health care bill as the basis for some right of center tweaks. The problem was that a national version of state-mandated comprehensive health care prepayment really is a move in the wrong direction whether it is financed by taxes on income, investments, energy (seemingly Frum's preferred method) or high-end health insurance policies. And Obama wasn't going to go for a real left/right compromise (one that might have included direct subsidies for health insurance with opening up the market for HSAs and high deductible policies). Obama wanted a reform that would be transformative from the left. His first preference was for a straight single payer system. His second choice was for a public option that would get us to single payer on the installment plan. His third choice was the corporatist arrangement we just got. This was the leftmost bill he could get past his swollen congressional supermajorities. It was never about the Republicans (though it would have been nice if they would have signed up for some bipartisan cover). It was about what "moderate" [spitting sound] Democrats could be bribed and browbeaten into accepting.
I think that the strategic error made by conservatives and Republicans was more subtle and older. I think that if conservatives and Republicans had done a better job (and worked alot harder) at explaining right-leaning ideas about health care policies, the Democrats would not have been able to seize the initiative in quite this way even if with their supermajorities. There is a reason why Obama and Pelosi aren't trying to return to the pre-Reagan marginal tax rates or launch a principled frontal attack on 1996's welfare reform or try to ban a bunch of rifles. Conservative victories in the realm of public opinion placed limits on what a liberal President and liberal congressional leadership are willing to do. The conservative error was in things that were unsaid and undone since the failure of Clintoncare. So much time time wasted on arguments about my tax cut is better than your tax cut, compassionate conservatism, John Kerry looking French, and elitists picking on Sarah Palin because she grew up in a small town and didn't go to an Ivy League school. Now, when conservatives try to explain the Ryan Plan or the Goldhill strategy of the incremental Levin-Capretta strategy, they start at square zero with the average American,
I think you should check out this thread just for Art Deco's comments. I agree that it makes no sense to look for real leadership on health care policy from the Republican congressional leadership. But I also don't think that the... Read More