Conservatives Lost Chance To Influence Health Care Legislation

There has been a lot of hysteria from the right wing regarding yesterday’s passage of health care reform. While I don’t agree with everything he says about  the legislation,  a rare rational assessment from the right was written by David Frum. In  a post entitled Waterloo, Frum said that conservatives “suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.” He realizes that conservatives and Republicans are to blame because of their strategy:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

There are real objections which can be raised to this bill. By concentrating on false claims such as that the bill represents tyranny, socialism, or a government take over of health care the only reality-based objections came from those on the left who argued that the bill didn’t go far enough. There were few rational voices calling for conservative changes, even in a couple areas where I would have agreed they would have made sense (such as in reducing the power of the Medicare Commission and doing more for tort reform). Conservatives took themselves out of the picture with their irrational claims and refusal to work responsibly.

This was a loss for the conservative movement which could have received more concessions from the Democrats in return for a bipartisan vote. Frum realizes that the winner here is the conservative entertainment industry, made up by people such as Rush Limbaugh who want Obama to fail:

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.

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1 Comment

  1. 1
    skippy the bkroo says:

    RT @ronchusid: Conservatives Lost Chance To Influence Health Care Legislation by their irrational behavior http://bit.ly/chyFzZ #hcr #p2

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