A lot of folks are talking about this post by conservative columnist and yakker David Frum. Back in July of last year Republicans predicted that health care reform would be Obama's Waterloo. Health care reform winded up being Waterloo alright—just not Obama's. Frum:
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.
Republicans refused to work with a Democratic president who was willing to bend over backwards to bring them on board and craft a bipartisan bill. So the bill that Democrats approved last night wasn't made more moderate thanks to Republican input because there wasn't any Republican input because Republicans opted for knee-jerk obstructionism and bet the farm on blocking the bill in the hopes that this crushing defeat would demoralize the Democratic base (labor was threatening to sit out the midterms if health care reform didn't pass) and destroy Obama's presidency. That didn't happen. (You would assume, based on the way Frum describes the bill, that it had been drafted by commenters at DailyKos and created a single-payer health-care system. It's a pretty moderate bill even without Republican support.)
Now even if the Rs manage to take back the House or Senate in November—or both—they won't be able to repeal health care reform. For starters, Obama is going to be president in 2010, 2011, and 2012, regardless of who controls Congress after the midterm elections. Unless the Rs manage to rack up veto-proof majorities in both houses—and that's not going to happen—Barack Obama will be sitting in the White House ready to veto any repeal of health care reform that lands on his desk. And if Republican primary voters are stupid enough to nominate Sarah Palin in 2012—and does anyone doubt that they're just that stupid?—Obama is going to be sitting in the Oval Office with a desk drawer full of veto pens until January of 2017.
So even if the Rs manage to take both houses... repealing health care reform looks unlikely. And who says that the Rs, back in control of Congress, would be able to pass legislation repealing health care reform? Back to Frum:
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?
I was saying just this to a friend this weekend. (It was one of those rare face-to-face, in-real-time, over-beers actual human conversations, which is why I said it to a person and not on Slog.) Before the bill passed the Rs were able to scream and yell about this big, vague, scary government plan to take over Medicare and kill your grandmother. They could lie with impunity (death panels!), stump against the bill in the abstract (socialism!), and rely on a castrated media that is incapable of calling a lie a lie and a liar a liar (liberal bias!). But now that the bill has passed the Republicans will have to deal in nitty-gritty specifics if it attempts to repeal it. In addition to stumping for reopening the donut hole and bringing back the "pre-existing condition" nightmare, they will have to stump for restoring the right of insurance companies to cancel your health insurance policy the very moment you get sick. They'll have to argue, essentially, in favor of shit like this.
That's not going to fly. Back to Frum:
There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with somebody who wants to murder your grandmother? Or—more exactly—with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?
I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters—but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say—but what is equally true—is that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed—if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office—Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.
So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.