Monday, March 22, 2010

Village Voices

The pundits are out in full force with their reactions to the passage of the healthcare bill. A few samples:

Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

[T]he emotional core of opposition to reform was blatant fear-mongering, unconstrained either by the facts or by any sense of decency.

[…]

And let’s be clear: the campaign of fear hasn’t been carried out by a radical fringe, unconnected to the Republican establishment. On the contrary, that establishment has been involved and approving all the way. Politicians like Sarah Palin — who was, let us remember, the G.O.P.’s vice-presidential candidate — eagerly spread the death panel lie, and supposedly reasonable, moderate politicians like Senator Chuck Grassley refused to say that it was untrue. On the eve of the big vote, Republican members of Congress warned that “freedom dies a little bit today” and accused Democrats of “totalitarian tactics,” which I believe means the process known as “voting.”

Without question, the campaign of fear was effective: health reform went from being highly popular to wide disapproval, although the numbers have been improving lately. But the question was, would it actually be enough to block reform?

And the answer is no. The Democrats have done it.

David Frum at his blog the FrumForum:

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

[…]

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?

We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.

Ross Douthat, also in the New York Times:

During the decades since the Great Society, American liberals have passed through a period of Mondale-Dukakis denial, in which they were convinced they were just an election away from picking up where Lyndon Johnson left off; a period of Clintonian acceptance, in which they came to terms with the new center-right reality; and then an era of slowly-reviving ambition, which culminated in the election of Barack Obama.

This newfound confidence has been palpable throughout the health care debate. Yes, liberals have wrung their hands over the compromises required to pass the bill. But nothing has dislodged their fundamental assumption — an assumption straight out of the golden age of ’60’s liberalism — that a bill this costly, this complicated and this risky can be made to work, so long as the right people are in charge of implementing it.

As a conservative, I suspect they’re wrong. But now that the bill has passed, as a citizen of the United States, I dearly hope they’re right. Indeed, I hope that 20 years from now, in an America that’s healthier, richer and more solvent than today, a liberal can brandish this column and say “I told you so.” Because the alternative would mean that we’re all about to be very sorry, and for a very long time to come.

E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post:

For Obama, this struggle was transformative. He began his administration full of hope that his campaign pledge to achieve concord across party lines was a realistic possibility. But when faced with implacable Republican opposition, he jettisoned the happy talk and came out fighting.

If bipartisanship is more fashionable than partisanship, partisanship with a purpose is infinitely preferable to paralysis. Obama has made clear that he will reach out when he can, and do battle when he must.

By temperament, the president is more a consensus builder than a warrior. But he is also a practical man who wants to accomplish big things. On Sunday, he did just that on health care, and he earned a place in history.