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Tilting at Windmills

[ 28 ] January 3, 2011 |

A superficial analysis of the House Republicans’ pledge to vote to repeal health care reform is that it’s nothing more than a symbolic gesture.  While many might downplay their modest intellectual prowess, they must possess a rudimentary understanding of the basic institutional structure outlined in the very Constitution that they plan to patronizingly read on the floor of the House on Thursday, right?  A slightly more charitable reading of this vote involves internal Republican politics: placate the lunatic fringe that got you elected prior to getting on with the real work of misgoverning.

However, as both the NYT article above and the Chait article in The New Republic cited in an analysis by The Democratic Strategist suggest, this presents an opportunity for the Democrats to take the initiative in framing the debate on favorable terms, for a change.  Taken individually, many aspects of health care reform are popular.  This can be exploited.  Furthermore, the narrative of a party bereft of original ideas which seeks only to obstruct or destroy should be underlined.  If properly framed and executed, this is a debate that the Democrats and the White House can and should win.

Will they?  I wouldn’t bet on it, but I like to be surprised.  If the Democrats do take advantage of this opportunity, it would afford a more colorful interpretation of the Republicans’ pissing in the wind.

Comments (28)

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  1. hv says:

    I doubt the Democrats are capable of successfully portraying even purely symbolic ob-/de-structionism as such.

  2. If properly framed and executed, this is a debate that the Democrats and the White House can and should win.

    For some reason the last eight minutes of the most recent Giants-Eagles game come to mind.

  3. soullite says:

    No, you see, Republicans know something that you folks don’t: If you keep taking shots at a windmill, eventually you do enough damage that you really can take the whole thing down with one more shot.

    But you so-called ‘pragmatist’ decide that if you can’t get something done in 6 months, then it’s just impossible so you shouldn’t even bother trying. That’s why Republicans keep eating your faces off.

  4. Thlayli says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised to find there are freshman Rebublican Congresscritters who actually believe John Boehner can snap his fingers and make the ACA go away.

  5. Murc says:

    I would actually say that this vote being a symbolic gesture, rather than a move to cynically further manipulate the GOPs base electorate, is the more charitable interpretation, not the less.

    Getting something voted on in either chamber of Congress is actually kind of difficult. Getting something PASSED in either chamber is more so. EVEN IF the other chamber and the executive veto point (or even the judicial veto point) aren’t going to agree with what you pass, it is, in my opinion, worth holding the vote as a statement of principles and a clear signal as to what your intentions are going forward. It brings hope to your supporters and shows you’re still in the fight, and enters unambiguously into the Congressional record what you stood for.

    I would have loved it if the Democratic-controlled Senate during the last two Bush years had undertaken plenty of ‘symbolic’ votes, and I think many here would have as well.

    • John F says:

      actually it is quite easy for one house to pass something when it knows the other house won’t.

      it’s also relatively easy for both houses to pass something when they know POTUS will veto

      the real legislative battles are when the House and Senate and POTUS are aligned… and held by Dems… Cause then the Repubs dig in their heels and fight for every last inch of ground…

  6. Joe says:

    Actually defending the legislation would be nice. It would remind some people that the Dems actually did something useful and voting for them (including Obama) was not just a matter of not being able to vote for McCain/Palin et. al. w/o puking right then and there in the voting booth.

    • hv says:

      You realize Obamacare resembles some of the Republican health care proposals that Clinton turned down.

      So all the progressives who supported that move were idiots?

      • Joe says:

        I think “Obamacare” is a stupid term that doesn’t even correctly focus on the importance of the Senate in the process. I also don’t say “LBJ-Care” or the “LBJ Society.”

        This isn’t the 1990s, so what was deemed too compromising then is not what is reasonably deemed unrealistic now. Not seeing 60 votes for nirvana, the progressives compromised. Also, the fact that more children etc. have health care now seems notable to me too.

        I thus don’t see the “dolt” nature of supporting what was available. I also don’t think progressives were “dolts” in the 1930s for supporting programs that were relatively conservative in various respects, only later expanded (and even then not as much as some on the left hoped).

        So, though ire can be placed on Obama etc. for watering down the possible, progressives were not “idiots” for taking something instead of being pure and all, and getting nothing.

        • hv says:

          … progressives were not “idiots” for taking something instead of being pure and all, and getting nothing.

          Do you mean progressives now? Or back when this first was offered, and they declined? If incremental reform is so sexy, why not start it asap? Why didn’t the something v. nothing logic apply back then? I kinda missed that part of your argument.

          Face facts: any attempt to claim that Obamacare is to be celebrated means that turning it down was a mistake. You seem to be very sensitive to what is politically possible in the modern presidency, but you don’t analyze what might be possible if so much political capital is not wasted getting us to where we could have been in the 90s? Did not your sensitive antennae detect any HCR fatigue over the past 2 years?!

          The way out is to admit that it is not that landmark. We both agree that Obama moved HCR forward. Clinton was forced to punt, and on the next drive Obama ran for 2 yards up the middle on first down. Yay. That isn’t going to elect liberals in the red states, where the narrative of HCR as the thin edge of an incremental and expansive wedge is a wee bit less attractive.

          Or haven’t you noticed the distinct lack of politicians saying: “Don’t worry, folks, HCR will get a lot bigger and more powerful in surprising and delightful ways over a generation! Or two!”

          • Joe says:

            Incremental reform isn’t “so sexy” though it is how reform often occurs.

            In hindsight, progressives probably should have settled for less in the 1990s, but hindsight is 20/20 and all that. Calling them “dolts” because progressives today had history to learn from and a different political calculus in place is a tad unfair.

            That was a pretty long two yard drive. It took a long year of developments and so forth. Many on various sides assured us “oh well, nothing will be done now,” especially after Sen. Brown. But, now it’s “cakewalk” and all that.

            The legislation improved the lives of many people. When some older person has more health care or can keep their 20something kid on their insurance or isn’t deprived of health care for a pre-existing condition or goes to a clinic paid for or so on, they benefit.

            But, like conservative feminists who take in stride what their liberal predecessors worked hard to put in place, others can yawn and say nothing much was done, in fact it the ‘mandate’ is unconstitutional.

            And, the New Deal? Ha. What did that do? Will take another generation to add chunks to the program. Let’s vote for Wendell!

            • Joe says:

              One more thing. There were many pieces of legislation down to the repeal of DADT passed during the last two years. Various people have cited the list. But, this doesn’t stop others from saying Obama and the Dems basically didn’t do anything. Some of these now are quite nostalgic for Clinton, who didn’t do such things. So, voter behavior and insight and facts are not always on the same page.

              • hv says:

                …this doesn’t stop others from saying Obama and the Dems basically didn’t do anything.

                While we are on the subject of what poor Obama does and does not get credit for, what was that Nobel prize for again?

                More importantly: You do realize that my insisting you excoriate Clinton, et al, for not accepting HCR in the 90s is not nostaligia, right? Kinda the opposite… I am demanding you agree Clinton screwed up!

              • Joe says:

                This is for the below.

                Nobel? You just tossing stuff and seeing what sticks now?

                Anyway, I didn’t say YOU were being nostalgic, and already said that in hindsight, there were screw-ups. Again, the fact that a “Republican plan” (now opposed by Republicans when it actually was possible it could pass) was rejected then doesn’t suddenly make the progressives then “dolts.”

              • hv says:

                You just tossing stuff and seeing what sticks now?

                Dude, you were the one who introduced the “list” of Obama’s other accomplishments. You opened that door. Why would you act like it is me?!

            • hv says:

              People who believe that Obamacare was a major step forward fail entirely to explain progressive thinking in the 90s. It’s not just a lack of hindsight… did they not know about incremental reform in the 90s? You have once again failed to answer why they couldn’t understand the difference between something and nothing. Progressives have understood that for centuries!

              The narrative that HCR is landmark but in the 90s it was smart to turn it down is fundamentally flawed. It’s just not a believable story, and it involves just shrugging our shoulders about understanding progressive thoughts a mere decade ago.

              =====

              Also, please don’t put words in my mouth. I never said it was a “cakewalk” — I totally agree it was hard-fought. In fact, if you read carefully, I am using the intensity of the fight as another argument why it would have been better to pass in the 90s… to avoid HCR fatigue under Obama and get other progressive stuff done.

            • DocAmazing says:

              In hindsight, progressives probably should have settled for less in the 1990s

              Surely you mean “should not have settled for less”. What we got from Clinton was NAFTA, Ending Welfare As We Know It, and financial services deregulation. Clinton was the best Republican president since Eisenhower. How we could have gotten less is a mystery.

  7. dave3544 says:

    I think you underestimate the Republicans. All along they argued that the health cares system could be “fixed” with a little tort reform and allowing insurance across state lines, and I think they meant it.

    Remember, universal coverage is not their goal-it is a moral hazard to give someone something they have not worked for! Lowering the cost of health insurance for individuals is not their goal. Minimizing the amount health care costs “small businesses” is their goal. Being seen to attack “trial lawyers” is their goal. Minimizing government regulation of anything is their goal.

    I think they are genuine in their belief they can “repeal” ACA, but by “repeal” they mean “defund.” And they genuinely believe that “repeal” is an election issue they can ride until 2012.

    I would also like to believe that when there are Congressional hearings and the American people are asked to choose between a mother who has a daughter being denied medical health insurance because of a pre-existing condition and a health insurance CEO who is claiming that the government requirement that he give health insurance to lazy people is what is driving costs that the American public would fall on our side, but I have lived too long and am way too cynical.

    • wengler says:

      You’re being very optimistic in thinking that Republicans care about small businesses.

      • Holden Pattern says:

        I don’t think that dave3544 means actual small businesses, but rather the metaphorical, platonic ideal of small businesses that Republicans have constructed, which pay income taxes on their gross, suffer the depredations of the estate tax, and would pay their employees more generously if it weren’t for the damn government.

        See also “troops”.

        • dave3544 says:

          Exactly. I also mean the struggling small business owner who earns $250K plus and will now be hiring all kinds of employees since her marginal tax rate will not be going up slightly.

          Although I have known enough Republican operatives to know that many of them believe this crap. They generally come from families that do own business and do earn roughly $250K a year but would never, never, ever think of themselves as “rich.” I went to a Tea Party rally where I talked with a woman who was literally crying because Health Care Reform was going to force her to lay-off an employee and they had all worked for her for 10+ years, she just couldn’t afford to keep them all on if her costs went up even a little. She then got in her Lexus and drove off. She doesn’t believe that she’s rich and probably will lay-off an employee long before she gives up the car, home, boat, or season tickets.

  8. [...] GOP’s push to repeal health care reform is either a meaningless sop to the Tea Party base, or an empty exercise in windmill-jousting that will end up harming the party more than helping it. Yet, it would be a mistake to take these [...]

  9. [...] GOP’s push to repeal health care reform is either a meaningless sop to the Tea Party base, or an empty exercise in windmill-jousting that will end up harming the party more than helping it. Yet, it would be a mistake to take these [...]

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