03.03.27 Health Care Reform: Who Wins?

Despite the predications that the the would be punished for passing an unpopular health care reform bill, I think Obama and the Dems come out the big winners from this horrifically ugly process.  (This is not to say that the Dems will do especially well in November because of it, but rather that they will benefit in the coming weeks and not be hurt by it this fall.)

First, Obama & Co. have demonstrated that they can actually accomplish something, when given power at both ends of Pennsylvania Ave. and a year+ to work on it.  That’s right: our political process is so broken that simply showing competence — however briefly — can and will change general perceptions.  I know this is true in me — notwithstanding my year-long despair over Obama’s lack of leadership, I suddenly feel better about him.  This is so, even though he continues to be so wrong on some things (e.g., civil liberties and due process) and under-accomplished on so many others.  I just feel a wee bit better about him.  And I can’t be the only one.  And that adds up to increased political capital.

Second, the bill passed and the sky didn’t fall.  Except for the Tea Partiers, most skeptical Americans will notice that fact immediately.  It will gradually sink in that the health care bill not only hasn’t brought on instant Stalinism, but actually contains provisions to help “people like me.”  People will like that fact that their adult children get to stay on their plans for a while and that insurance companies can’t kick you off of your coverage just for using it.  The things that will supposedly bite — individual mandates and taxes on the most expensive policies — won’t kick in for several more years and — even then — will affect only a handful of Americans (those who choose not to be insured and those with so-called “Cadillac” coverage).

Third, the same independents will will now line up in support of what has been accomplished will be completely turned off by the antics of the GOP: the bigotry, the name-calling, the members of Congress inciting violence and extremism.  We may be grossly disappointed that the great middle of the country sees the progressive agenda as being out of the mainstream, but they also will punish the far-right (which, alas, is the center of the GOP) for being downright insane.  Independents don’t love the Dems (I don’t either), but they will be more inclined to vote for them after what we have just witnessed.

All in all, if the sky is falling here, it is falling on the GOP.  See the much-discussed “Waterloo” column by conservative David Frum, a former speechwriter for W.  (By the way, Frum just got fired from the American Enterprise Institute, apparently for having the temerity to tell the GOP what fools they are.)

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