The Dems' Rookie Mistake: Achieving Their Goal

The Dems' Rookie Mistake: Achieving Their Goal

The Dems' Rookie Mistake: Achieving Their Goal

A mostly political weblog.
Jan. 5 2010 12:21 AM

The Dems' Rookie Mistake: Achieving Their Goal

You have to wonder whether Congressional Dems, facing the 2010 midterms, realize they've in effect made the rookie Washington lobbyists' mistake of getting their big bill passed in  one year when they could have taken two or three. After February, if all goes according to expectations, they'll more or less have done a lot of the job they were elected to do.** After that, who needs them? ***

Look at the way various groups can be expected to react to the health care victory:


A-- Will old people be happy? No, they're kind of pissed off.

B-- Will young people be happy? Well, they're getting targeted by the mandate to buy insurance and milked by community rating to make the system solvent. So maybe not.

C-- Will opponents of the bill like it? Obviously not. They will turn out.

D-- Will supporters of the bill like it? Two subgroups here: i) Those who wanted more (like a public option or single payer) are disappointed and maybe angry and demoralized. But at least they have a good reason to show up at the polls (to elect liberals who will help them achieve what they want). ii) Those who didn't necesarily want more-- who are happy with the Pelosi/Reid product-- have far less incentive to show up . For them, the deed is done. Unless, that is, Dems can somehow bait the Republicans into making repeal of Reid/Pelosi a hard-core pledge. ****...

I still  expect the Democrats will hold the House and Senate , simply because (in part thanks to the Feiler Faster principle ) the entire health care issue will seem like less of a big deal by November. But when you think about it in this category-by-category way, the outlook is kind of grim for the Dems, no? ....

P.S.--BREAKING! Wait, a nice, constructive debate over amnesty for illegal immigrants will save them. ....


**--There is the pattern: Once Democrats have established key, long-demanded institutions--Social Security, Unemployment Compensation, Medicare--voters are then quite happy to elect Republicans--Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan--to run the resulting, larger government. They're especially happy to do it once it's clear the Republicans won't tamper with the basic structure. (A semi-exception is AFDC-welfare, where voters never demanded, and in fact hated, the basic structure--giving no-strings cash to single parents who could work.)

***--If they'd gone the Medicare buy-in route, by way of contrast, the Dems could have lowered the entry age by two years or so every session--all the while pledging to lower it another two years or ten years if they were returned to power. Cover and cover, expand and expand, elect and elect. ...

****--I suppose that, in the welfare reform debate of 1996, pro-reformers should have worried that Newt Gingrich's Republicans would wake up and realize that once they'd ended the AFDC entitlement, they'd have lost their main argument against the "failed liberal welfare state"--and the main reason for voters to reelect them .  Luckily the Gingrichian combination of principle and hubris was sufficient to preclude this realization. ... Also welfare reform was a) way more popular than the Dems' current health care reform (in other words, group D above was something like 70% of the electorate) and b) completed much closer to the election--thereby maximizing any tendency of "D (ii)" voters to sentimentally and somewhat irrationally reward those who'd achieved it after the fact. ... Also c) it wasn't immediately clear that the Dems wouldn't unreform welfare if they got their Congressional majorities back. (They still might, of course. But the threat at least appears to have receded.) ... 10:10 P.M.