Tuesday, March 23, 2010

American Tories

Steve Benen has a post about the emerging Republican message on health-care reform. It is, to my thinking, rather insane (the message, not Steve's post). There are certainly some aspects of HCR that are unpopular and could likely become good campaign issues for the GOP. But there are plenty of popular aspects to it as well. Campaigning on a bald repeal pledge is insane (even regardless of this poll saying that reform has jumped in popularity) as it gives Democrats an opportunity to trumpet the popular provisions of the bill, educate their constituencies, and build more support for the entire package (bad parts included). Jon Cornyn--who is extremely conservative, but usually a bit more strategically bright than most of his compatriots--is offering a more nuanced and plausible path forward for Republicans, but it is unlikely he will get his way.

For the past few months, Republicans have been offering Democrats advice about dropping health-care reform, despite the obvious conflict of interest. Democrats mostly ignored them, figuring that Mitch McConnell probably doesn't have the best interest of the Democratic Party at heart. But it might be advantageous for Republicans to consider that the Democrats are positively giddy at the prospect of running against a party dedicated to a full-on repeal of HCR, from liberal media outlets to elected officials, there is positive excitement to fight for what Democrats rightly feel to be a historic achievement. Republicans are highly unlikely to win the argument for full-on repeal. There could indeed be some utility to a more nuanced case for targeted changes and modifications to the bill, though I think would force Republicans into a defensive debate position. The odds of a court challenge to health care succeeding are uniformly regarded as poor. It seems apparent that the Administration has pulled a fait accompli on the issue, and among elite Republicans there is little enthusiasm for fighting this fight. Right-wingers are, as usual, setting themselves up for disappointment.

But it does seem as if Republicans are going to run on repeal. Considering the stakes they put on this bill, they really have no other choice. My guess would be that such efforts will be a drag on Republicans' chances, generally speaking. It might help in winning Democratic seats in conservative areas, but I find it highly unlikely that the public--which has been worn out on this debate for months now--is going to respond to angry calls for repeal. By all accounts, they've wanted Congress to move onto new issues for some time now. Republicans' pledging to continue this debate means less time spent talking about the economy--in other words, it will only render the Republicans out of touch even more so than they are now. They've really fallen for their own nonsense--the Republicans running for Senate in California (California!) are all pledging to repeal Obamacare, in what will no doubt go down as the greatest example of mass seppuku since ancient Japan. The idea that this issue will play to their satisfaction in liberal, union-dominated California is positively nuts to me. But what can they do? It's much too early to prognosticate about the Midterm elections, and high unemployment will be a difficult hurdle for Democrats to overcome. But the Republicans are showing signs of replicating the same errors that plagued the British Conservative Party over the past decade, such as their obsession with their own pet issues instead of the public's desires. This could play very poorly for them. Time will tell.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.