The Los Angeles Times thinks Democrats fear a repeat of what happened to LBJ, "who, upon signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, said his party had lost the South for a generation."* But health care reform helps a majority, not just minorities. If middle-class whites embrace the Democratic Party as blacks did after civil rights, what's left of the GOP?
Critics argue that health care reform, once enacted, won't generate the breadth of support that Social Security and Medicare generated, because those bills passed with significant Republican support. But why assume that lockstep Republican opposition will discredit the health care program? Maybe the opposite will happen: Lockstep opposition will discredit Republicans.
The same can be asked about partisanship. "Mr. Obama has lost something," says the New York Times. "Gone is the promise on which he rode to victory less than a year and a half ago—the promise of a 'postpartisan' Washington in which rationality and calm discourse replaced partisan bickering." But why is this Obama's loss? Maybe it's the GOP's.
Hours before House Republicans voted 178-0 against the bill, their leader, John Boehner, summarized their platform for the midterm elections. "We will have an effort to repeal the bill," he pledged. Today, that sounds like a good message. We'll see how it looks in November.
Correction, March 22, 2010: The article originally quoted Newt Gingrich, via the Washington Post, as saying that Democrats "will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years" when he signed the civil rights bills of the 1960s. After Slate's article was published, the Post issued a clarification in which Gingrich said he was referring to cultural and economic factors beyond civil rights. Accordingly, I've attributed the argument about civil rights to another source that made the same point. (Return to the corrected sentence.)