Would Voters Punish Dem Health Care Backsliders?

A mostly political weblog.
Jan. 21 2010 3:36 AM

Would Voters Punish Dem Health Care Backsliders?

Jonathan Cohn, and SEIU head Andy Stern , among others, argue that there's no turning back on health care for House Dems who've already voted for it once. If they now claim to have changed their minds, they'll still be attacked for their earlier vote , or else they'll be pilloried as Kerryesque flip-floppers. 

I'd like to think this is true. But in my experience voters are all too reluctant to punish politicians who've had timely conversions to the winning side after a drubbing at the polls .** Voters may even value those pols more than their colleagues who were on the "right" side all along--the post-defeat change of heart a) pays respect to the voters' power and b) suggests that the pol knows who is in charge and will be easy to control from now on (unlike an annoying principled true believer who might not take orders). ... Pols who have followed electoral repudiations with seemingly opportunistic turnabouts--but have survived thanks to this perverse rewards system--include Jerry Brown (who flipped after losing on Prop. 13) Arnold Schwarzenegger (who started looking a lot like a Democrat after his 2005 "year of reform" flopped in a special election). ...

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All this suggests, unfortunately, that many wavering House Dems may decide that declaring they've 'gotten the message' and changed their position on health care reform could, in fact, help protect them from being effectively attacked for their earlier support. ... P.S.: This doesn't mean they won't be effectively attacked for having failed to accomplish much, a slightly different question.. ...

**--Kerry's flip-flops were different--they smacked of instinctive "positioning," the attempt to insure that whatever happened Kerry could say he was on the more popular side. Not a one-time move from "yes" to "no," as it were, but a drumbeat of "yesnos." ... 1:18 A.M.

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