Thursday, March 25, 2010

Decision Time

Via Ezra Klein

"Looks like David Frum has been fired from the American Enterprise Institute. The sin appears to be his recent criticism that lockstep Republican opposition to the health-care bill sacrificed conservative policy goals at the altar of short-term electoral incentives. This, apparently, is out of bounds. But he should know that: This dismissal comes after he left the National Review on the heels of bitter arguments over whether Sarah Palin was qualified to be president.
What you're seeing here is the tension between being a conservative and being a Republican. It's not that you can't be both at the same time, but that you have to know which wins when ideological push comes to electoral shove.


"Moreover, there was no doubt the bill looked like the reforms Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts and that the conservative Heritage Foundation advocated in the early Aughts. There's no doubt that it was more ideologically conservative than any major reform bill that had come before it. But none of that played any role in the party's rhetoric. Any time you heard someone calling this bill a 'takeover of one-sixth of the economy,' it was pretty good evidence that you could write that commentator off entirely.

"As Frum saw clearly, if you were interested in a conservative health-care system, there was room for compromise in this bill. If Republicans had cut a deal on revenue, we could've capped the tax break for employer-sponsored insurance and there would've been no increase in Medicare payroll taxes. Health savings accounts and tort reform could've been much larger parts of the bill. A system of reinsurance for catastrophic costs, as Sen. Chuck Grassley once proposed, was certainly on the table. If Republicans had offered 40 real votes for Wyden-Bennett, I would've been on their side in this debate."

I cannot agree more. There are a lot of conservative ideas present in this law and not a single conservative Republican would get behind it. Their political aspirations trumped their policy philosophy and they lost on both counts. Concessions were made numerous time to try and build bipartisan support for the bill - mostly by moderate Democrats. This bill is not just centrist, it's centrist leaning to the right. Is it perfect? No. Would Republican input have made this law better? That is debatable, but it certainly would have made it more comprehensive.

They rolled an awfully big pair of dice playing the obscure and obstruct game and came up bust. The gamble only would have payed off if they could have stopped the legislation from becoming law. If they had succeeded, the defeated bill and its details would have become a memory recalled as only a closely-contested, nail-biting defeat of government intrusion into peoples' health care; the sanctity of the physician-patient relationship kept pure from an over-reaching federal authority with shades of socialism.

What's going to happen though is that as aspects of the law are enacted one after another and people see how horrible the GOP distorted the facts and tried to derail the debate public opinion is going to turn against them. It's already happening. Public opinion polls already have the new law, the Democrats and President Obama tracking higher than before passage. The big question is do they reconsider their strategy and stop the obstruction that they are already ratcheting up? they give up the heated rhetoric designed to whip their base into a even greater furor? Or do they start reaching across the aisle as Lynsey Graham has on immigration reform? Or do they stay ideologically pure and further relegate themselves to the sidelines?

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