Ross Douthat believes that if healthcare reform doesn’t pass, it won’t be President Obama’s fault.
In reality, the health care wrestling match is less a test of Mr. Obama’s political genius than it is a test of the Democratic Party’s ability to govern. This is not the Reagan era, when power in Washington was divided, and every important vote required the president to leverage his popularity to build trans-party coalitions. Fox News and Sarah Palin have soapboxes, but they don’t have veto power. Mr. Obama could be a cipher, a nonentity, a Millard Fillmore or a Franklin Pierce, and his party would still have the power to pass sweeping legislation without a single Republican vote.
If the Congressional Democrats can’t get a health care package through, it won’t prove that President Obama is a sellout or an incompetent. It will prove that Congress’s liberal leaders are lousy tacticians, and that its centrist deal-makers are deal-makers first, poll watchers second and loyal Democrats a distant third. And it will prove that the Democratic Party is institutionally incapable of delivering on its most significant promises.
It’s not that the Democrats are incapable of it, it’s that they are still unable to grasp the fact that they’re dealing with an opposition party that is ruled by lunatics. Even the most seasoned pol has to gape in stunned disbelief that John McCain, the one-time presidential candidate, is willing to give credence to made-up claims about “death panels.” And while the “centrist deal-makers” may be hindering the Democrats’ progress on crafting a bill with the elements that the president and his allies want, at least they’re not turning it over to members of their party whose grasp of reality is in doubt, and their goal is to at least come up with something rather than to kill healthcare reform just to watch it die. Talk about your “death panels”….
One of the most aggravating things about the way the Democrats run their party is that they are perfectly willing to be open about their disagreements and self-doubts. The Republicans have no such problem; they happily march in lockstep and quash any querulous tremors of possible disloyalty. Besides, it’s easier to chant “just say no” rather than actually do anything.