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Advice From Your Mortal Enemies: Clinton Counterfactual Edition

[ 143 ] August 19, 2014 |

Megan McArdle argues that it would have been better for everyone, including Democrats, had Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination in 2008. Why? Because she would have bailed on comprehensive health care reform. Let’s start with the easier, normative question first:

I’m actually going to disagree a bit here. I think that Hillary Clinton would have been more cautious when dealing with Republicans, and therefore ultimately more successful in some ways. At the very least, she would not be facing the same level of vehement opposition in Congress.

I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it. From the Tea Party’s perspective, you had an unpopular program that should have died in the same way, and for the same reasons, that Social Security privatization did: because sensible politicians saw that, no matter how ardently they and their base might desire it, this was out of step with what the majority of the country wanted (and no, you cannot rescue the polls by claiming that the only problem with the law was that it wasn’t liberal enough; when you dig down into what people mean when they say that, the idea that there was ever a majority or a plurality that was secretly in favor of Obamacare collapses).

A few points:

  • The idea that abandoning health care reform would have significantly moderated conservative opposition is highly implausible.  The Tea Party would have just focused on the stimulus plan rather than the ACA.  Congressional Republicans had already decided to uniformly oppose Obama’s major initiatives before the ACA.  The ACA wasn’t the reason for the mania ostensibly about the deficit that led to the various crises created by congressional Republicans.
  • In addition, while it I suppose it’s possible that Obama would have maintained higher approval ratings had he never even tried health care reform, it’s extremely implausible that trying and failing to pass comprehensive health care reform would have been a net political positive.  Republicans would still be mobilizing against the greatest threat to freedom in known human history, while most Democrats would (correctly) feel betrayed.  Incidentally, this is where the analogy to Bush’s Social Security privatization scheme collapses.  Ending Social Security as a public program was a purely an elite-driven enterprise; most Republican voters don’t even favor benefit cuts, let alone privatization.  But comprehensive health care reform has been a major liberal priority for many decades.
  • And even if you assume an attenuation of conservative mobilization that isn’t balanced out by liberal demobilization, again, so what?  There was no way the Democrats were hanging on to the House of Representatives in 2010.  You would have to be dreaming in technicolor to think that contemporary House Republicans were going to pass major progressive legislation. Obama won re-election and held the Senate despite the unpopularity of the ACA.  So what would materially change had the ACA not been passed? The Democrats would have a few more House backbenchers?  There’s no positive legislative achievement trivial enough to be worth trading for that.
  • On the public opinion question, it’s worth noting that repealing the ACA is even less popular than the ACA. Combined with the fact that the individual components of the ACA are generally more popular than the whole, we shouldn’t assume that its unpopularity is permanent.
  • And, finally, even if you think the political cost is greater than I do, ultimately the point of winning elections is to do things.  The argument that Obama should have abandoned comprehensive health care reform in favor of…something else is analogous to the argument that it would be better for the reproductive rights of women to be held hostage for political purposes than to protect them.  There’s not much value in maintaining power for its own sake, and while you can sometimes attenuate opposition by not winning that’s not much of an argument to therefore never win.

McArdle’s argument that Democrats should have wanted Obama to abandon health care reform fails for the same reason her Halbig trooferism fails: it fails to comprehend how much the issue means to most Democrats.

Now, let’s turn to the more difficult empirical part of the counterfactual:

I think that Hillary Clinton would have pulled back when Rahm Emanuel (or his counterfactual Clinton administration counterpart) told her that this was a political loser and she should drop it. I’ve written before about how my Twitter feed filled up with comparisons to 1932 the night that Obama took the presidency, and it’s quite clear to me that the Obama administration shared what you might call delusions of FDR. It thought that it was in a transformative, historical moment where the normal rules of political caution didn’t apply. The administration was wrong, and the country paid for that.

[…]

Of course, in my counterfactual, Hillary also probably wouldn’t have proposed ambitious health-care reform; she’d have done something more modest, like a Medicaid expansion. Progressives might well say that they’d rather have the first two years of the Obama administration, followed by gridlock, than steadier but more modest achievements by a Hillary Clinton administration.

Even leaving aside the fact that there was going to be gridlock after 2010 no matter what, I’m very confident that the second counterfactual is wrong. Any Democrat who took office in 2009 was going to propose the consensus health care reform of the primaries. To argue that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have proposed her signature domestic policy proposal when Barack Obama proposed it (in a form closer to hers than his) is implausible in the extreme. I also note that the behavior of Republican statehouses makes it pretty clear that Tea Partiers would not have perceived a major expansion of America’s largely single payer health care system for the poor as “modest” — that’s a job for progressives who are too good for your mere politics! — a rather major problem for her other core argument.

The only serious question is whether Clinton would have bailed after Scott Brown’s victory. In a general sense, there’s some reason to believe that Clinton would have been receptive to the Rahm narrative. While Clinton’s primary supporters see her as someone who would be tougher on Republicans, I see someone who was paying Mark Penn millions of dollars, suggesting that she hadn’t fully abandoned the tendency to political risk-aversion that major Democrats learned in the 80s.

That said, on this specific issue I think it’s enormously unlikely that she would have jumped ship when the going got tough. Do you think that Clinton would want to be remembered as someone who twice screwed up comprehensive health care reform? I think that’s enormously unlikely. It’s possible, I suppose, that she could have tried and failed, but again I doubt it; she would know better than anyone that the “just shove it down Congress’s throat” strategy preferred by the ACA’s left critics is a massive fail.

So not only do I not buy that it would have been good for Democrats had Clinton won and abandoned health care reform, I see no reason to believe that she would have.

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  • McArdle, back in 2008, totally would have voted for Obama, but she, er, forgot to register in time.

  • bobbo1

    I’m sorry, “the delusions of FDR”? The initiator of the most comprehensive progressive legislation in American history was deluded how? Or if I am going to be charitable, is this just a complete lack of command of the English language? Does she mean to say that Obama had the delusion that he was FDR? And also, too, BTW, Obama did an awful lot of successful FDR-ing in his first term, so to throw in “the country paid for that” as an aside is just pure McArdlebargle.

    • She means it like “delusions of grandeur,” delusions of being like FDR.

      This is my comment in support of McArdle for 2014. I’m done.

      • L2P

        So this time it’s her writing that sucks, instead of her terrible grip on reality, basic humanity, common sense, and basic math skills?

        • David Hunt

          So this time it’s her writing that sucks, instead of in addition to her terrible grip on reality, basic humanity, common sense, and basic math skills?

          FTFY

        • MAJeff

          Don’t they all just reinforce each other? I mean, basically, we’re dealing with the social type, “Idiot.”

      • Roger Ailes

        The only difference between McArdle and Jim Hoft is family connections.

    • Lee Rudolph

      Not “the delusions of FDR”, “delusions of FDR”; she’s saying (with unusual clarity for her) that she thinks Obama was, delusively, imagining himself as FDR.

      • JustRuss

        This. It’s a perfectly valid phrasing, although I’m not so sure Obama sees FDR as a role model, especially considering his bankster coddling.

        I’m getting so tired of the ACA-hate. The status quo was terrible. The ACA is not perfect but it’s better than nothing. And these monsters want to go back to doing nothing.

    • Scott Lemieux

      The initiator of the most comprehensive progressive legislation in American history

      Lyndon Johnson says hello!

      • See how bad McArdle is? She misspelled “LBJ”!

        • weirdnoise

          It’s so hard to keep track of all those three-letter acronyms.

  • JMP

    “I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it.”

    That’s because it wasn’t. The teabaggers were created by having a President who was A) a Democrat and B) black, and therefore illegitimate in their eyes. That’s it.

    Had Clinton won in 2008 instead of Obama, the main difference we’d see is a lot less racism from the teabag set, and a lot more misogyny instead.

    • L2P

      Right? I mean, there wasn’t a huge group of people out there who were thinking, “I LOVE black people, and I LOVE Democrats, and I LOVE incremental health care reform, but I will PROTEST THE CRAP out of universal health care insurance.”

      This is part of the fantasy of the “libertarian” wing of the Republican party. This idea that racism doesn’t matter and so all this opposition is because of SOSHULISM and so on, and not because things are changing in ways that make conservative white people extremely uncomfortable. But without this fantasy, these “libertarians” are stuck being forever allied with evil and they don’t want that.

      • AlanInSF

        Shorter McArdle and everyone like her: “If only something,Republicans would have worked constructively with Democrats to pass legislation that addressed the nation’s problems.”

        • Col Bat Guano

          Or my shorter McArdle: If Obama had passed Republican legislation, he would have been much more popular with Republicans.

          • Warren Terra

            Note that even this gives far too much credit to the Republicans, in at least two ways:
            1) It assumes the Republicans made legislative proposals in good faith, that their bills were more than mere mirages intended to make them seem like they had their own proposals and were being in some way reasonable.
            2) It ignores the determination of the Republicans to deny Obama any accomplishments whatsoever, even if that achievement should be of a result they desired.

            • matt w

              Right. The ACA was the Republican health reform proposal. (Mind you, I think even way back in 1994 it was probably a blind; the Republicans just didn’t want to help the uninsured, and they certainly don’t want to now.)

      • JMP

        And it was also all about the deficit, which suddenly became a huge problem on January 20, 2009 even though Reagan had proven that deficits don’t matter for the previous eight years. Sure, that’s not completely and obviously disingenuous.

        • weirdnoise

          Hell, even Reagan knew deficits mattered. Why else would he have signed a massive tax increase to counter the bad effects of his ill-considered tax cuts?

          Oh, wait, Republicans pretend that never happened in their universe.

        • FlipYrWhig

          That’s because when the president is a Democrat, “deficit” is a euphemism for “welfare,” which is itself a euphemism for “Negroes.”

          • Lee Rudolph

            And “Negroes” in turn would definitely be a euphemism there.

    • tsam

      Obama was just turned the old Moral Majority fascists into the current zombies they are now. They were sleeping peacefully while Bush Jr was starting wars and cutting taxes for rich people and outing CIA agents who didn’t toe the line and giving multi-billion dollar no-bid contracts to companies his vice president used to own.

      They’ve been around forever, they just get loud and incrementally more stupid proportional to the hatred they feel for the prez.

      • Obama was just turned the old Moral Majority fascists into the current zombies they are now. They were sleeping peacefully….they just get loud and incrementally more stupid proportional to the hatred they feel for the prez.

        If video games have taught us anything, it’s “aim for the head.”

        • Warren Terra

          The whole point of Astroturf fake-grassroots movements is that the head is safely underground.

    • drkrick

      Ah, the old “steamrolling” argument, which is at least less impolite than “shoving it down our throats.” Since the ACA was passed through the normal process, this apparently means that in addition to a majority vote of the entire body a certain unspecified number of votes from the minority party are also required for legitimacy. An interesting argument coming from a party that, under the leadership of Delay and Hastert, used to amend bills with bipartisan popularity to minimize the number of Democrats who would be willing to vote for them.

      • JMP

        There were some actual arguments to that effect; that despite the fact that the Democratic Party controlled both houses of Congress, somehow any legislation that wasn’t “bipartisan” was illegitimate. Funny how that never works the other way.

      • Barry_D

        The GOP ‘shows leadership’; the DemonokRatz ‘shove it down our throats’ (again and again and again, until we wake up breathing heavily and sweating, and have to change our pajama bottoms).

    • matt w

      I mean, Rick Santelli’s seminal rant, and Rick Perry’s threats of secession, came before the ACA was a twinkle in Obama’s eye. I’m not even sure the Gang of Whatever had started delaying stuff yet. IIRC Santelli was responding to the prospect of mortgage relief and Perry was responding to… stimulus maybe? The threat of stimulus? It was never too clear.

      OK, doing some checking: Santelli’s rant was on Feb. 14, 2009 — when it was really too soon to know anything other than that Obama had won the election. Perry threatened secession after a Tea Party rally on April 15, 2009. Baucus’s health act, which was the final product of the Gang of Six, was proposed on Sept. 16, 2009. (The stimulus was signed into law on Feb. 17, 2009, so that’s much more plausible as an issue. And illustrates that the problem was “Democrats pass a law.”)

      So McArdle, per her usual modus operandi, is bullshitting about stuff she should have known and could have easily checked in about five minutes of internet searching.

      • AlanInSF

        Clearly, principled opposition to government-run health care programs was one of the foundational grievances of the Tea Party movement, as witness their demand that the government keep its hands off their Medicare.

    • MAJeff

      That’s because it wasn’t. The teabaggers were created by having a President who was A) a Democrat and B) black, and therefore illegitimate in their eyes. That’s it.

      The TeaBaggers pre-date Obama. These John Birch crackers have been around for a long time.

      • royko

        Yeah, I was going to say. This latest incarnation wasn’t formed in response to the ACA to begin with, but really, Tea Party was just a name put to the group of angry older white people who bought into the talk radio/FoxNews/urban legend rhetoric they’d been fed for the last twenty years.

        It’s people caught up in a culture war that’s at least three decades out of date, people who don’t even understand what they’re mad at.

        • MAJeff

          Daddy Koch founded the Birchers.

          His spawn funds the ‘Baggers.

          The genealogy is pretty clear.

        • It’s people who have, for some reason or other, decided that what they really want to be when they grow up is Archie Bunker. I think it’s to get some sort of personal spiritual justice, since their Archie Bunkers are dead or really old and one really can’t tell them to get off one’s yard, they assume the role. I guess it’s the same reason hazing continues in the various areas it exists in, even though it’s friggin’ stupid. No one wants to be the last one to catch shit, so we pass it on.

      • tsam

        Old, white soreheads, UNITE! (Right after the 700 Club is over).

        • MAJeff

          But there’s a “Murder, She Wrote” marathon!

          • Not Matlock?

            • Warren Terra

              Diagnosis: Murder.

              • NonyNony

                Y’all are slandering some mighty fine shows there. Matlock especially is a classic. Maybe not up there with Columbo, but a classic nevertheless.

          • dmsilev

            Featuring Angela Lansbury as the sociopathic serial killer who successfully framed dozens of patsies for the murders she committed.

            • The Manchurian Candidate killer?

            • Warren Terra

              I like the episodes in which she assists her apprentice (posing as her nephew) in escaping culpability for the murders he commits.

              (in looking at the IMDB page to make the joke work, I was amazed at how much of a one-star show Murder She Wrote was: Lansbury is in 264 episodes, the runner-up is in 53, and only a half-dozen other people were in more than ten episodes)

    • Gwen

      The official story is that the Tea Party started when Rick whatshisface went on CNBC and started ranting about homeowner bailouts.

      Which is of course nonsense, but that was in February 2009, long before the ACA passed.

      In truth, the Tea Party was born the instant Obama won the presidency.

      • Gwen

        Santelli. I was about to type “Rick Spaghetti” but realized that was both wrong and potentially insulting to pasta.

      • Warren Terra

        Santelli’s rant was apparently Feb. 19, 2009. The Stimulus (ARRA) was signed on Feb. 17. I don’t know the time line without checking, but I doubt that by less than a month into Obama’s Presidency it had even been decided which machers in Congress would sit down and dicker out a first draft and a plan to shepherd it through Congress. Certainly it was the focus of no-one’s attention in mid-February 2009.

        • tsam

          He had been all butthurt about the bailout before Obama took over, but once Obama started using TARP for stuff he cranked up the sniveling to 11. “WHERE’S MY BAILOUT, HUH?”

          Um, (P)Rick, it comes from all money you steal from other peoples’ retirement savings, but you go right ahead and cry about it like a 3 year old denied a cookie before dinner.

    • CrunchyFrog

      We’d have had the Tea Party no matter who won the 2008 Democratic nomination. First, the Tea Party URLs were registered early that summer – I mean, this was pure astroturf and the preparations were laid as soon as it was clear that the 2008 election wouldn’t be close enough for the GOP to steal. Second, the tea party funders opposed EVERY FUCKING THING the Democrats talked about – even if the idea were originally a GOP idea – based on whatever lies they could think of to tell the base. The first Tea Party event in April 2009 – which was way, way, way before ACA discussions got underway and which Fox News promoted 24×7 for the two months before – was based entirely on opposition to the stimulus act, which they imagined gave billions of dollars to lazy blahs in the hood. Prior to the inauguration the Teanuts were complaining about card check and the fairness doctrine – two things the Democrats didn’t push (but should have).

      • postmodulator

        I forgot about that! There were TERRIFIED about the Fairness Doctrine and no one on our team had said a word about it. Clearly, they understand where their power comes from. (Although it was kind of fun to watch the GOP get all lathered up about the Spectre of Impending Fairness — they forgot to rename it, a la the “death tax.”)

    • witlesschum

      I think McCardle is actually being unfair to the Tea Party. I think it’s got astroturf, racism and just general conservative sore-losing dickishness in its DNA, but I think it’s also partly fueled by the fact that the economy is fucking over a lot of people.

      The Teahadis I’m sort of acquainted with are lower middle class types, deeply prone to magical thinking, but they’re able to see the fact they’re being fucked over. While I think the economic complaints from these people are partly just the screams of white privilege by another name, but being aggrieved at the economic status quo is super sensible at this point. Too bad the Tea Party’s economic critique is a combination of free market fairy dust and ‘no, keep hitting yourself,’ but the problems they’re reacting to are real.

      • JR

        We just got two mailers from the Republican Party, loudly proclaiming that they are the only ones we can trust to protect Social Security and Medicare, which the Demoncrat party aims to destroy because ArgleMcArgleBargle-barf.

        The young Republican would-be congressman is pictured with elderly wanna be constituents, who need their Republican congressman elected so he can protect Medicare and Social Security from the Demoncrat-led Government!!

        Amazing that bold-faced lying shit works for them! Some people have no ability to distinguish between fiction and reality at all. I notice this when people demonstrate against behavior in novels, fiction, as if it was reality, and not made up fairy stories.

        Wanting to burn Harry Potter novels because there’s magic in them, for example, as if those stories were intended to convince people that Hogwarts was a reality, and people should believe in it instead of fairy tales written down by mid-eastern shepherds 2000 years ago.

        Wait…maybe….

  • Richard Hershberger

    “Congressional Republicans had already decided to uniformly oppose Obama’s major initiatives before the ACA.”

    We should always remember that when Obama gave a speech encouraging kids to stay in school, the Republicans were outraged. It is a huge mistake to think that the Republican response to Obama ever had anything to do with anything he did, apart from getting elected.

    • tsam

      If they pay attention in school, they won’t buy into the Teahadi worldview. I’d be outraged too.

    • JMP

      Well of course it’s bad to encourage kids to stay in public school, there they might learn actual facts, like that the universe is about 13.8 billion years old, or that the Civil War was fought because of slavery instead of, like, tariffs or something. Far better for kids to “learn” by going to home schole.

    • tsam

      He hadn’t even taken office when McConnell laid out the Senate Republican agenda, had he? The agenda having a single line item–limit Obama to one term. Real ambitious, turtle face!

  • Bufflars

    McArdle trying to get technical with the polling data seems rather foolish. Convincing her readership to dig into the poll numbers might not get the result she desires, assuming that anyone nowadays hasn’t made up their mind about the ACA. Everyone who’s seen the polls knows that nearly every major component of the law polls relatively well on its own, it’s just when they are lumped together and called “Obamacare” that people don’t like them.

    • McArdle trying to get technical with _____________ seems rather foolish.

      It’s a handy little sentence.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Yeah, but words 2 through 5, plus that dash, are really unnecessary.

        • Indeed. Omit needless words!

          • Warren Terra

            Yes! Shorten!

            • Hogan

              Eschew verbosity!

              • Marek

                Brevity is … wit!

                • tsam

                  Brevity is.

                • +brvty.

                • sharculese

                  What you two need is a little comic strip called Brevity is. It’s about two sociopathic glibertarian thirtysomethings who are married.

          • mds

            Omit needless words!

            … typed the lawyer with the Vaarsuvius avatar.

      • bobbo1

        No way! She’s the Economics Editor of someplace of other, or at the very least an economics expert.

        • Malaclypse

          Every time I’m tempted to take something Tyler Cowen writes seriously, I remember that he links, often and approvingly, to McMegan.

          • Srsly Dad Y

            I recently discovered a very interesting, crotchety, second-career-high-school-teacher-blogger and was appalled to read that he fancies himself “a Krauthammer, Brooks, or McArdle.” My FSM, man, think of the children.

    • Craigo

      Everyone who’s seen the polls knows that nearly every major component of the ideology polls relatively well on its own, it’s just when they are lumped together and called “liberalism” that people don’t like them.

      Fixes in italics.

    • Hogan

      It wasn’t data; it was a hypodermic. Or something.

  • rea

    The great lesson of the last two decades is that the Republicans do not accept any Democratic president as legitimate, and will not cooperate in the slightest degree with a Democratic administration’s efforts to govern the country.

  • Warren Terra

    OK, I’m far from expert on the 30s, but if McArdle thinks that FDR’s early Presidency was marked by a cessation of political differences and a transformation of the country to uniformly follow FDR in lockstep, she has caught something from her calculator. A fair portion of the country (27%?) insisted that FDR was driving us into ruin and was an agent of foreign conspiracies. FDR got the legislation he got not because the country united behind him but because there was an inescapable sense of emergency and because his party had won 3/4 of the House and over 60% of the Senate (very different party compositions and filibuster rules make the Senate representation hard to compare).

    Beyond that:
    1) The notion that the Republicans were interested in compromise, or in working with Democrats for any constructive purpose, is laughable.
    2) That is, it’s laughable even before you get to the notion that what prevented moderate, peaceable progress was the relentless partisanship of Barack Obama, a fellow whose entire schtick from 2007-2010 was his rejection of partisan divides and his eagerness to meet the other side half way. You could argue this was conniving strategy (so the other side would look bad when they rejected his outstretched hand of compromise) – but then we’ll never know, as every time they rejected offers of compromise.
    3) The further idea that Hillary Clinton, who Republican propagandists had spent over a decade portraying as some sort of hellbeast, would be the figure to bring an end to partisanship, rather fails to convince.
    4) McArdle’s big idea for a less-than-the-ACA compromise is: Medicaid expansion. Because on her planet, the Republicans were eager to hand out money to poor folks. Never mind that this is the one part of the ACA Republicans have managed to block in a couple-dozen states, turning down free money to do so. In fact, let’s repeat that in nasty bold type: McArdle’s big idea for a compromise is the one thing the Republicans have turned down free money to block.
    5) Needless to say, when we contemplate “better for everyone” we are talking about different “everyones”. McArdle apparently envisions more ideologically diverse and more harmonious dinner parties in Georgetown, where unspecified magical forces dependent on more complete Democratic ineffectiveness have pacified the powers of partisanship, and sees “everyone” in a better place. Some of the rest of us contemplate “better for everyone” and think of the tens of millions of Americans who’ve gotten affordable, reliable health insurance, and consider them to be part of “everyone”.

  • joe from Lowell

    I think that Hillary Clinton would have pulled back when Rahm Emanuel (or his counterfactual Clinton administration counterpart) told her that this was a political loser and she should drop it.

    If there’s one thing we know about Hillary Clinton, it’s her tendency to panic, reverse herself, and scamper away when faced with opposition. Umwut?

    • Lamont Cranston

      Yeah, how does this fit with the caricature of her as a ball-busting feminist who spent eight years in the White House pushing around Bill Clinton?

      • tsam

        She didn’t. make. a. single. cookie!

        • Marek

          She didn’t. even. bake!

          • sibusisodan

            She could have made donuts, but she didn’t. even. fry.

          • MAJeff

            She just lost Washington.

  • keta

    McArgle Bargle:

    Yes, a lot of money and energy was poured into the Tea Party by rich backers, but rich backers cannot create a grassroots campaign unless the underlying passion is there in the voters (paging Karl Rove and Crossroads). The Obama administration created that passion with Obamacare

    Uh, Megs, I don’t think you have a fucking clue what “grassroots” actually means.

    • drkrick

      If you can ignore enough facts to think the Tea Party was a reaction to the ACA, thinking it’s a grassroots movement is easy.

    • Malaclypse

      Uh, Megs, I don’t think you have a fucking clue what “grassroots” actually means.

      It means something her husband drew a good salary to organize.

    • Barry_D

      “Uh, Megs, I don’t think you have a fucking clue what “grassroots” actually means.”

      Her fiance (now husband) Peter Suderman was running an astroturf group.

      • JR

        Well, yes, but that’s as close as the Republican’ts can get to grassroots.

        A friend of mine has a sister dependent upon Social security disability for her livelihood, and federal medical care support, yet she is a teabagger who wants to keep the government’s hands off her benefits!

        Mental problems in theory aren’t part of her disability, but the ability to hold contradictory beliefs seems common to so many Republican voters…

  • Hogan

    The rage was similar to what progressives felt as they watched George W. Bush push the country into a war in Iraq. That defined and animated the anti-war movement (which is why said movement collapsed when Bush left office, and not, say, when Bush agreed to a staged withdrawal of our forces). Yes, those people would still have hated Republicans, even if there had been no Iraq War. But they would not have been as passionate, as organized or as powerful without it.

    Yes, that organized, powerful anti-war movement, which had billions of dollars in funding and a compliant media covering its every move. How I miss that.

    • Malaclypse

      If history has taught us anything, it is that politicians cross the American Friends Service Committee at their peril.

    • AlanInSF

      Trying to make health insurance affordable for more people is similar to invading a country that never attacked or threatened us, killing hundreds of thousands of people, wasting more than a trillion dollars and leaving the invaded nation in ruins.

      • tsam

        Now you’re getting it, you loony lib!!

    • JMP

      We have a media that completely ignored hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters across the country, while calling anyone who opposed invading Iraq anti-American traitors, but decided that a couple dozen angry old white coots screaming they want to “take their country back” was consistent front-page news. I wish the anti-war movement was powerful.

    • Yes, if there’s one person I can trust to have useful insight into the anti-Iraq War movement, it’s Meghan “two-by-four… applied in a firm, pre-emptive manner” McArdle.

    • JustRuss

      I guess McArdle missed A.N.S.W.E.R.’s multi-city protest in 2010. Not surprising, since our media studiously ignored it.

  • When commentators say things like, “what liberals don’t understand” I know I am listening to someone who gets her down to earth ideas from the imaginary friends who live all around her laptop.

    Also, and I suppose I should document this with links to old Time magazines or something, but weren’t people who weren’t Marianne Moore showing up at political rallies before Obama was elected? I’ll bet you wouldn’t have to look hard to find pictures of Sarah Palin stumping with guys waving Don’t Tread on Me flags.

    • sharculese

      When commentators say things like, “what liberals don’t understand” I know I am listening to someone who gets her down to earth ideas from the imaginary friends who live all around her laptop.

      She straight out admitted she’s arguing with her twitter feed from six years ago. you don’t have to read between the lines on that one.

  • sibusisodan

    I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it.

    Dude. We were alive in 2009-10. We remember. None of that was the case.

    Unless by ‘understand emotionally’ she means ‘pretend this is real’.

    • joe from Lowell

      Right. We’re not supposed to remember Rick Santelli, opposition to TARP, or the protests against the Recovery Act?

      • Malaclypse

        We’re certainly not supposed to remember that TARP was a Bush program.

        • sibusisodan

          TARP was a Bush program.

          Who? You mean the ‘no new taxes’ guy?

          • NonyNony

            No – that Democrat that was President before Obama and after Clinton.

            • algore?

              • tsam

                He’s the fat one who hates freedom and the light bulbs that god gave us. I think he’s talking about that Hunka hunka burnin’ Bush.

                • JR

                  Oh, man, do I like this! There could be a whole song, maybe even a movie! You’re really onto something good here!!!

      • altofront

        We’re not supposed to remember Rick Santelli, opposition to TARP, or the protests against the Recovery Act?

        I know JfL knows this, but (given some other comments in this thread) it’s important to remember that Santelli’s tea party rant wasn’t about TARP and banks getting bailed out, but about homeowners getting help with their mortgages.

    • royko

      Here’s two early Tea Party articles from way back in the day:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/us/politics/16taxday.html?_r=0

      http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/04/15/tea.parties/

      Taxes, taxes, taxes. Government waste. Stimulus. Bankrupting the country! Other than a vague quote about the country going socialist, nothing remotely about health care.

      • CD

        This is what I remember. It was initially anti-stimulus, but with a lot of paranoia.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    “To appease the right wing nut jobs, the Democrats should’ve nominated the Lady Macbeth of Whitewater”

    Also, if the Tea Party started with ACA, what was Rick Santelli’s whole thing about? Oh that’s right the bailouts, which both parties voted for.

    I’d love to believe the Tea Party was about anything besides “F with Obama’s S” if anyone could show me a single concrete policy idea from the Tea Party platform besides “repeal ACA.” Hint: there is none.

    Please proceed, McMuffin.

  • tsam

    What liberals actually don’t understand is how someone can be so fucking stupid and ignorant can get paid like a fucking boss to puke their mouth diarrhea all over the internet.

    • Gwen

      Actually I was wondering that. How do I get a sweet gig saying stupid things on the Interwebs?

      I’m tired of just giving it away. But then again, why should the Kings of Content buy the cow when they’re already getting the milk for free? Maybe I only have myself to blame.

  • sharculese

    At the very least, she would not be facing the same level of vehement opposition in Congress.

    It’s certainly the case that exactly zero wingnuts went to the Supreme Court to secure their right to smear Hillary Clinton in movie form.

    It’s certainly the case that no wignuts have ever accused Hillary Clinton of murdering her lover and burying his body outside an airport.

    It’s certainly the case that no wignuts have ever accused Hillary Clinton of faking a concussion to dodge testifying about her role in the cover-up of Obama administration wrongdoing.

    I distinctly remember none of those things happening.

    • tsam

      First Wignuts–typo, I know, but I love it.

      B: HAHA! Yes, I’m sure wignuts would be totally cooperating with Clinton, had she won because Megs sez so, see? Here’s a case of “If you would only do what I tell you to do, I wouldn’t have to beat you every Saturday night.”

    • royko

      Sweet Jesus, yes!

      That may have been the dumbest sentence that McArdle has written in a career distinguished by dumb sentence writing.

      Granted, the Republicans wouldn’t drop their obstructionism for any (D) right now. That’s just where the incentives are driving their politics. But to think that they would be kinder to Clinton than to Obama is absurd.

    • JMP

      What actually happened doesn’t matter, though; conservatives are always willing to retcon the past, even the recent past, so for now they always loved the Clintons and got along with them swimmingly, unlike that awful Obama who they’re trying to smear now. Note that this will change as soon as the 2016 general election begins, assuming Clinton is the Dem nominee.

      • Warren Terra

        I’ll bet that in 2016 they’ll at least have a go at claiming they always respected and could work with Bill, but Hillary is the devil incarnate.

        (incidentally, I find it interesting that even in a sentence that mentions Bill Clinton I have a reflex I must suppress to refer to Hillary Clinton not as “Hillary” or “Hillary Clinton” but as “Clinton” – and a decade ago it was surely the reverse.)

  • brad

    I remember working this beat…

    So McMegan’s central unstated premise is that a Hillary Clinton Presidency would have made for a more cooperative Republican Party in Congress. Unstated because it’s so obviously stupid, but then again she is married to someone paid to pretend to believe the Tea Party isn’t merely a Koch Bros sponsored rebranding.
    I wonder if, when she was a child, she ever saw a bully doing the “stop hitting yourself” routine and thought to herself “that’s good advice”.

    • STH

      Shorter McArgleBargle: Everything really IS the Democrats’ fault.

  • Daragh McDowell

    One must give McArdle her due – there’s something remarkable about promoting the benefits of libertarian meritocracy when you have a glittering journalistic career despite based on continually failing to produce anything of actual merit. It’s like performance art. Or maybe just self-hatred. Either way, while I appreciate Scott giving her a good literary bollocking, I really wonder why we’re still paying any attention to her.

  • rea

    Let’s imagine a counterfactual world in which Hillary Clinton won the nomination and the presidency in 2008.

    In that counterfactual world of 2014, M. McA. is writing a column:

    I think that Barack Obama would have been more cautious when dealing with Republicans, and therefore ultimately more successful in some ways. At the very least, he would not be facing the same level of vehement opposition in Congress.

    • joe from Lowell

      She would have been on firmer ground, too.

      She could have actually pointed to Obama’s record in the Illinois state senate, where he was successful in working across the aisle on issues like the videotaping of statements in homicide investigations.

    • FlipYrWhig

      I am a huge Obama supporter and defender, but, swear to God, if Clinton had bested Obama, the Obama people would be carping at her incessantly. And the media would be beyond insufferable. “Instead of getting bottled up in partisan squabbles that recall the worst of the 1990s, a breath of fresh air like Barack Obama would have cleansed the stagnant swamps of bleearrgh.”

  • Joshua

    The Tea Party movement started up like 2 days after Obama entered office, thanks to Rick Santelli claiming that dirty poors were on the verge of stealing money from rich people, the real victims. I don’t think healthcare reform was really on the radar there.

    Could Social Security privatization gotten done without Republicans? I don’t remember Republicans having a filibuster-proof majority, nor do I remember the Dubya’s plan having wide support in the House.

    McArdle is falling into the predictable and depressing right-wing belief that a bunch of people yelling at town halls constitutes widespread unpopularity. It also has the nice side effect of believing that Democrats are not allowed to enact an agenda they were elected on as long as a few right-wingers are angry about it. It’s a nice trick.

    Getting into the weeds, polls have always said that people like Obamacare up to the point where it is called Obamacare.

    • Gwen

      Exactly Joshua.

    • Joshua

      blurgh, it should have read “Could Social Security privatization gotten done with *Democrats*.” If Dems had the same numbers as the GOP in 2005, no PPACA of course. Of course the obvious response to this is “win more elections”, but as we all know, the GOP does not believe in the legitimacy of the Democratic Party.

    • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

      I looked it up – Santelli’s rant was spurred by the housing refi program, which was authorized under the bailout bill, which was passed and signed…by W in 2008. It really helps underscore what an asshole Santelli is.

  • advocatethis

    What is it with some people and not attributing peoples’ motivations to what they claim them to be. Just as neo-Confederates want to disregard the secession statements of numerous treasonous southern states who claimed outright that they were seceding to protect their slave interests, tools like McMegan disregard the clear and repeated statement from Mitch McConnell before Obama had even taken office that his goal was to make Obama a one-term president and he would do nothing to help advance any part of Obama’s legislative agenda. Everything McConnell has done since day one has reinforced that. How can any knowledgeable sentient being deny that?

    • …tools like McMegan disregard the clear and repeated statement from Mitch McConnell before Obama had even taken office …
      How can any knowledgeable sentient being deny that?

      Question asked and answered.

  • Modulo Myself

    Glibertarians now propose a universe in which nobody can talk with any certainty about their impressions of the actual world, thus Halbig makes perfect sense, but in a counterfactual world, it’s crystal fucking clear what would have gone on. The next step I guess is proposing all libertarian policies be judged by counterfactual outcomes. Otherwise, relying on reality is just too difficult.

  • Sly

    On the night of the 2009 inauguration, the Republican Congressional and Senate leadership gathered and agreed to block anything and everything that the incoming administration proposed.

    This would normally end any discussion on the topic of “if only Obama did X, Republicans would work with him,” but this assumes that dipshit conservative hacks aren’t dipshit conservative hacks.

    • Warren Terra

      If only Obama had reached across the aisle and spent so much time dining with the leaders of the opposition on his inauguration night and every other that they couldn’t meet and plot against the notion of a functional government!

      • ericblair

        If only Obama had reached across the aisle and spent so much time dining with the leaders of the opposition on his inauguration night and every other that they couldn’t meet and plot against the notion of a functional government!

        The only way that would have helped is if the dinners were extremely high in salt and saturated fats, plus assorted fillers from Chinese imported foodstuffs and repeated over a significant period of time. That might have done it.

  • I must note again that for all the value conbertarians put on intelligence and hard work, they do seem to be plagued with large numbers of dumb motherfuckers. Is she going to run through What If scenarios for every Democratic candidate in 08?

    I think liberals really do not understand emotionally the extent to which the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act and the feeling that its government was simply steamrolling it.

    True, liberals don’t understand it because McArgle just pulled it out of her ass.

    But hey, if she wants to claim the Tetley Tantrum Tossers came into existence in order to oppose health care for millions of Americans because they felt their voices weren’t being obeyed heard, she can go right ahead.

    • FlipYrWhig

      “Also, I have never heard the phrases ‘Elections Have Consequences’ or ‘Sore Loserman.’ As far as I can recall, most winning candidates start out from a position of ritualized deference to the foe they vanquished, and Obama’s failure to do this was rather concerning.”

  • DonN

    I boxed a bit in my youth. There was this guy who was a bit slow (reaction time I mean) and mechanical that I sparred with quite a few times. He had this ability to just take a tremendous amount of damage without going down. My coach loved the dude because you could really try out strategies with little risk when you fought him. After some time it made me sick to see how much damage he took and I refused to spar with him anymore. Megan seems like the blogger equivalent to me. Not very fast, easy to hit, not the brightest and willing to just keep going. Maybe we should all just look away instead of fighting her.

    Ok, that’s dumb. She gets paid. Carry on. I’m going to down a few vodka ketchup martinis.
    DN

    • cpinva

      ms. megan rode the short bus as a yout. ’tis not at all surprising that she still has a seat. she tries, lord how she tries, to be a jr. modo. sadly, she lacks the gift (curse?) of being clinically insane.

    • Tex Cobb had more style than McMegan.

  • Rob in CT

    Jane Galt is full of shit, as usual. I wonder if she even realizes it.

    I always fondly remember that Reality Based Community post claiming that the progressive blogosphere had a mysogyny problem because there was so much McMegan bashing (as many of us said at the time – indeed any purely gendered insults are not ok, but McMegan can’t freaking add, or is a liar, or both). For whatever reason, a lot of people who should know better really want to take her seriously. See also: Tyler Cowen. He does it better than she does, but it’s the same basic idea: use calm, measured language to say ridiculous things.

  • Bugboy

    “…the Tea Party was created by the Affordable Care Act Fox News Network…”

    FIFY, Ms. McArdle

    And by the way, Megan, if you think Republican intransigence is bad with “that black man” in the White House, just wait until a woman moves in.

  • socraticsilence

    “Steamrolled” Are we talking about the same ACA that took 1 and a half years to pass because Democrats in the Senate attempted virtually everything to get Republican votes? That ACA? The same one that would have been passed earlier but for Norm Coleman being a sore loser?

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