By popular request, via the Right Scoop, a shot of espresso for your post-ObamaCare hangover from the man whom David Frum blames for having almost singlehandedly brought about a conservative Waterloo. Supposedly, in a Rushless universe (or a universe without conservative media, at least), the GOP would have been free to compromise with Obama on a smaller O-Care bill, thus sparing us from the entitlement colossus that now bestrides America.
What would that compromise have looked like? I … simply don’t know, and neither does Peter Suderman.
Frum doesn’t spell out exactly what deal he thinks Republicans should’ve cut, but the ground that he’s implicitly suggesting should’ve been given up was basically the whole enchilada: the insurance mandate, the subsidies, the government run and regulated marketplaces, the expansion of Medicaid. These are rotten policies that, in just a few years, have already had rotten outcomes. What would have been gained by ObamaCare opponents caving and supporting something along these lines?
The best precedent for a Frum-style strategy of
selling outcompromise is probably Medicare Part D. That bill picked up support from genuine fiscal conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan because the understanding was that, if this version doesn’t pass, something bigger and worse will. As a political calculation, this makes sense. But the end result wasn’t one to be proud of: We still ended up with a poorly designed, unsustainable, potentially disastrous policy. If ObamaCare opponents had compromised, that’s all they would have succeeded in passing here. Fine, you might say, but that’s what we got anyway! Fair enough. But unlike the current situation, they would have been responsible for those outcomes, would have given liberals political cover, and ultimately put themselves in a far weaker position to push for reforms.
Quite so. The mystery to me is why Frum thinks Obama would have compromised at all. He has a base too, you know, and with reconciliation on the table and Pelosi vowing that she could get to 216 even in a post-Scott Brown America, the left would have been very curious to know why The One was stooping to make a deal with the Rethuglikkkans when they could simply ram through a big fat bill of their own. That was the whole point of having a filibuster-proof majority — to do as they pleased, with no need to water down their legislation to woo a conservative base that wouldn’t be wooed anyway. (Many liberals still make that argument vis-a-vis the public option being dropped from the final bill.) All of which assumes that The One would have wanted to make a deal even if his base had let him; as DrewM says, “Ideologues like Obama don’t compromise when they don’t have to. Obama didn’t have to.” Indeed.
As for the politics of this, Democrats have insisted ad nauseam that O-Care is a winner in November. Many of them, strange as it may seem, appear to really believe it, in which case why would they want to share the benefits with the GOP? Better to freeze out the Republicans and keep all those yummy turnout-inspiring goodies for themselves. Why, the bill’s going to save hundreds of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars, right? Well, who wouldn’t want to own that? And now they do own it. Forever.
If you’re looking for a critique of Republicans on the day after, stick with Ed and Philip Klein instead. The question to ask isn’t why the GOP refused to compromise with Obama; it’s why the GOP didn’t fill this legislative void when it had the chance.
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