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High wire Democrats

I’ve been wondering for a while about a contradiction at the heart of the Democrats on healthcare reform. If they really thought it was so important, necessary, and right, why didn’t they get it done earlier? In particular, why didn’t they get it done before Scott Brown’s election?

A correspondent at The Corner has been wondering the same thing, which got me thinking some more about it. There are really only two possibilities:

1. Some set of Democrats really didn’t want it to pass, but at the same time they didn’t want to be seen as stopping it from passing.

2. The Democrats are utterly incompetent politicians.

As the person at The Corner points out, if you’re a pro, you better not assume your party has an election for an open seat in the bag. For all you know your candidate could drop dead a week before the election.

Plus, the Democrats started the entire process with two senators with one foot in the grave each: Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd. It simply doesn’t make sense to dawdle under those conditions.

Of course, Obama didn’t want to. He was setting his deadlines, because he clearly understood this. It’s beyond my capacity to believe that Democratic leaders didn’t also understand the reasons for the urgency, and transmit them downstream to all the Democrats in Congress.

Yet, here we are, with healthcare reform on life support, and the Democrats are in worse position to pass it than they’ve been since Obama took office.

So what happened? Option 2 above is just for completeness. The Democrats can’t possibly be that unprofessional as politicians.
I don’t think Reid and Pelosi are the sharpest knives in the drawer, but they got to their positions for a reason.

The only possibility, really, is option 1. Some set of astute Democrats figured out along about April or May of last year that healthcare reform as envisioned by Obama, Reid, and Pelosi was an electoral disaster for them personally, and perhaps for their party in general. I’d like to think that at least some of them had qualms about the effectiveness of the monstrosity that evolved too, even if they favored healthcare reform in general, but that was probably a side issue. Whether it’s establishment Democrats or establishment Republicans, a threat to their power is about all that would really force them to go against their party’s official position.

However, preserving power and position is not just about staying in office. At the federal level, you also have to keep your position within the party heirarchy, and not damage your prospects for moving up over time.

This was especially tricky in the Senate. A House member might bargain with Pelosi to vote against a healthcare bill, because she had votes to spare. Senators had no such option. It became apparent last summer that the likelihood of getting some Republicans to provide cushion and the cover of faux “bipartisanship” was not good. So every Democratic senator was a potential blocking vote.

In these circumstances, an uncompromising public stance against healthcare would have marked a Democratic senator for being scalped by his own base, and even if he survived, he would have been likely relieved of power within the party. Yet, being seen as a supporter of this particular monstrosity carries big risk for electoral defeat, especially in certain red or purple states.

So I believe that Landrieu, Nelson, and others from those states walked the high wire doing a delicate balancing act for the last year. They threw just enough sand in the gears to slow things down, all in the name of “improving the bill” and such. Heck, they might have even believed their own bullsh!t. But they were no more interested in seeing the thing passed than we were. At various points, when pressed to the wall and being given all the ridiculous stuff they asked for, at least in some form, they finally voted for a bill, hoping that it couldn’t be reconciled with the House, or something, because they really didn’t want it to pass.

If this supposition is correct, it explains why healthcare is dead in the sense of a chicken with its head cut off. It’s still flopping around, but the outcome is pre-ordained. There are just too many Democrats who really don’t want it to pass, but can’t come right out and say so.

It also explains the bribes to Nelson and Landrieu. They didn’t really want the bribes. They probably asked for them to give them a face-saving way to continue to oppose the bill and draw out the process. They knew that it would be politically unpopular for the Democrats to put such obvious bribes in the bill, so they hoped it wouldn’t happen. Then Reid, realizing the situation was getting desperate, gave them the bribes anyway, estimating that the risk of the bribes was less than the risk of not getting the bill passed.

I don’t know how close this armchair analysis is to being correct, but I can’t think of any other reason for the comedy that has played out over the last year. The Democrats can’t be that incompetent as politicians.

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9 Responses to High wire Democrats

  • Never make the bet that health care is dead.

    It’s the holy grail for the Left.

    There is nothing they will stop at to get it.

  • At least in Nelson’s case, it failed spectacularly and will cost him his seat.

    Blame it on Obama. He said “I won” and promptly along with Reid and Pelosi shut the GOP out of the room.  So the GOP (and large thanks to Sarah Palin) was allowed to successfully frame the debate.

    Had the idiots thrown a sop or two to the GOP they’d have co-opted a couple of the more squishy Senators while everyone was still wary of the Obama “mystique” (now laughably gone) and would’ve at least gotten the camel’s nose in the tent, so to speak.

    So yes, the Dems ARE that stupid. They got greedy and venal and arrogant and just plain evil

  • “In particular, why didn’t they get it done before Scott Brown’s election?”

    Several reasons, Billy.  And all of them stem from misreading the mandate they received in the 2008 election.  A so-called mandate of:

    1.  A Messianic Leader.  With a Rock Star President leading the pack, and the pack includes the all-adoring Media, how could they lose?

    2.  The first Super-Majority seen in the Senate since FDR days.

    3.  The public seemingly demanding hope & change as evidenced by the 2008 polls.

    4.  And the GOP seemingly in complete disarray, turning on each other playing the blame game for the results of the elections.

    How could they not expect to pass comprehensive Health Care in the House by Memorial Day and the Senate by Labor Day.  How could they not expect their members to toe the Winning Line that would result in perpetual legislative domination for the next two generations.  How could they not expect the GOP to continue to be marginalized.  RINOs, one by one, will be cut from the herd and brought into the Dem fold for survival.  Paradise is just on the horizon.  Health Care – Piece of Cake!  What could happen?

    Sobreity set in only when they realized their Super-Majority was based upon their previous concerted effort to attract Conservative Democrats to the fold to attack areas the GOP were weak in.  Many of these Democrats were to the right of Zell Miller and even to the right of their GOP opponents.  The hard core Left, the bastion of the Democratic Caucus, revolved around less than 40% of the members of both houses.  And it wasn’t until the Progressive’s closed the door on Republican and Blue-dog Democrats alike in the buildup of the original Health care bills that the feces began hitting the fan.

    Combine this with Crap & Tax, Card Check, a Stimulus bill so full of Pork even the Dems were embarrassed – but they passed it, bailing out GM and Chrysler just for the sake of the Unions, and rolling out a budget that blew away the deficit like a hog’s fart in a cabbage field!  

    And a very vocal promise of transparancy that has come to rack the Dems over and over again – even with their adoring media.

    And a campaign promise to end the partisanship which resulted in the single attempt, trying to entice the GOP to the bargaining table with the Obama enticement of “I WON!!!”

    So Reluctant Participants? Yes. 
    But also Incompetent?  Yes. 
    Arrogant?  Yes! 
    Greedy?  Oh Yes!
    And Just Plain Evil?  Well, the jury is out on that one.  Probably!

    • I think this is more-or-less consistent with what I was saying: that a noticable number of Democrat senators did not want to see healthcare reform (as it was constituted by the Obama-Reid-Pelosi axis) pass into law, and that they felt that way primarily because of self-interest, and secondarily because they realized it was a bad bill. But they had to hide their true opinions, again out of self-interest, and string out the process.

  • Frankly, the thought that Ben Nelson had tried to get something so divisive that it would tear the Democrats apart had crossed my mind.
    It reminds me of the Steve Martin joke about having hostages …
    First, get some hostages.  When they come to get them back, make your demands.  1) a million dollars 2) a get away car, and 3) the letter “M” stricken from the English language.  … you always have to make one ridiculous demand … [snickering] get away car ?!
    Seems Ben Nelson got the letter “M” stricken from the English language and the get away car … at least until the voters in MA changed things.

  • B:
    The core of your argument is that certain democrats immune to the arm twisting of the Democratic leadership were not dummies but savvy enough to slow the One down in passing an impossible health care ‘heaven’ even if at the cost of their respective offices. In the case of Landrieu and Nelson, perhaps, falling on such gilded political daggers might surely lead to the most pleasant of hereafters. Certainly, some writers of political history will be sympathetic when the penning political obituaries.
    Nevertheless, I just don’t see that line of reasoning at all. The truth is Obama’s ‘solutions’ are socio/political answers to long since entrenched economic woes dating to the late ‘70s. Obama and team offered ‘transformational’ solutions for those economic woes and which appear to be intended to sorta magically lead to political sanity abroad because Team O knows and can do or will do … something. And, now it comes clear, all to no avail.
    No, Obama (read Pelosi/Reid leadership) played a shell game, bait and switch. The democrats were/are fully complicit. The Landrieus and the Nelsons were not nor are not the noble and now supposedly loyal internal opposition to corrupting forces within the Democratic Party but active and knowing participants in a money deal that could beggar the arithmetic of an auditor.
    You outlined two different options:
    1. Some set of Democrats really didn’t want it to pass, but at the same time they didn’t want to be seen as stopping it from passing.
    2. The Democrats are utterly incompetent politicians.
    OK. I can buy into point one for the sake of the fact that Pelosi/Reid can impose party control when it matters. Young democrats have to keep their heads down and survive and stay out of trouble with the bosses. No argument. But stopping such legislation from passing? Why ever for?
    OK. With regard to point two, they are not incompetent politicians, they are crypto-socialists and they don’t want you to know it.
    Have a good week.

  • Actually no one even suspected a Brown win until a few weeks before the election.  And his election wasn’t even certain that night.  Insiders may have known only a handful of days before.
     
    You wouldn’t plan on health care being killed by an election which until a few weeks before you wouldn’t have expected to go to a Republican.
     
    Democrats simply took the election for granted.  And by the time they realized their mistake it was too late.
     
    This is not to discount the idea that a good portion have been dragging their feet in general.  And that a good portion saw the train wreck coming and let it happen.  Playing it cool to dilute any sense of urgency.   But it was all passive and luck.  No Plan.