August 31, 2010 Leave a comment
With all the attention to the coming midterm elections, I think it is quite notable what a small role the Democrats’ passing of health care legislation seems to be playing in the election. The Republicans kept insisting that it would bring about electoral disaster for Democrats (in which case they would’ve voted for it if they truly believed that), yet it really doesn’t seem to be playing a major role in any of the campaigns I’ve been reading about. Jon Chait’s got some nice comments on the matter:
It’s obviously true that the Democrats lost a lot of support “during the health care debate.” The health care debate took about a year. My argument is that, during a period in which unemployment was rising and the Democrats controlled the entire government, Democrats would have bled support regardless of what they were debating. If they declined to carry out their campaign promises, they would have lost support. If they cooperated with Republicans to continue or deepen Bush-era tax cuts for the rich — the only policy upon which bipartisan cooperation was possible — they may have bled somewhat less support because people like bipartisanship, but it would have been terrible policy.
You can make some counter-factual argument that never attempting to pass health care would have been a good political alternative, although you have to account for the massive liberal firestorm this would have provoked. You can make a better argument that passing health care quickly instead of spend month after month sitting on Olympia Snowe’s doorstep would have been a shrewder plan. I think the conservative argument that, after investing months and months into health care, taking high profile votes in both chambers, it would have been shrewd to then abandon the whole thing to failure is transparently unconvincing. That’s a recipe for absorbing almost all the costs of passing health care reform, getting none of the benefits, and driving your base wild with rage at you.
As I argued back in March, these midterms are ultimately about the economy, not health care.