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Health Care Reform Friendly Fire

The Republicans fought against health care reform as if it were all out war, so it is no surprise that even with the bill (finally!) passing last night, they are trying to claim they will get their revenge in the November elections.

A piece in the Washington Post goes so far as to claim that the Dems are hurting themselves:

The lengthy and rancorous debate has inflicted considerable damage on the president and his party. It helped spark the grass-roots “tea party” movement and generated angry town hall meetings last summer that led to some opponents painting Obama as a socialist and a communist for advocating a greater government role in the health-care industry.

You have to be kidding me. So, we should never make any progress as a nation if it angers some bigoted, small-minded, or obnoxious people at town hall meetings? If so, we are doomed as a nation.

Newt Gingrich says that the Obama Democrats “have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.

Ironically, a much better analysis comes from conservative David Frum. He starts out by calling this a “crushing defeat” for the conservatives and Republicans, and arguing that conservatives are being “over-optimistic” about their purported victories come November. But the main point of his excellent article is this:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

By deciding to fight this as an all-or-nothing war, the Republicans set themselves up to get nothing. Once they made this decision, they had to fight every Democratic proposal — even if that proposal is similar to past Republican proposals. Although “Obamacare” has “broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan” and to Republican proposals that were offered in opposition to Clinton’s health care reform efforts in the 90’s, there was no possibility for compromise.

Worse, the Republican party is finding that alignment with people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck is turning into a deal with the devil. Frum calls this them the “conservative entertainment industry” and ironically they benefit mightily from the Republican’s defeat. Now they have one more thing to be angry about, and to use to whip their listeners into a frenzy. They win, the Republicans lose.

Make no mistake about it, the Republicans understand this deeply. How else can you explain why — even when they had control of Congress, the presidency, and the Supreme Court — conservatives somehow forgot to make abortion illegal. Anger needs a cause, and an enemy on which to place blame.

But personally, I see a silver lining for the Republicans. The era of the politics of Karl Rove suffered a (hopefully) mortal blow last night. To Rove, every issue is political — a game to be played against your enemy — and your enemy is the opposing party, not your country’s true enemies. Republicans pulled out all the stops in their fight against the Democrats, using every dirty trick and lie (e.g., “death panels”, even calling it “fascism” and “socialism” simultaneously, and worse). They spent untold millions of corporate dollars, created fake grass roots movements, and were willing to do anything to win.

And they lost.

My hope is that true conservatives wake up and realize that their leaders are not Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, or even Sarah Palin. That the best policy is not always the one that will whip up your base. That your position can’t be solely opposition to the other party, and that conservatism used to mean more than greed and righteous self interest. I would — and I suspect many other moderates would also — gladly vote for a Republican like that.

Unfortunately, it is unclear that you can teach an old dog new tricks. Today John (the Maverick) McCain said “There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year. They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”


© Bruce Beattie

UPDATE: Republicans scoff at Frum and double down on being the party of NO! Frum responds with some very concrete and sensible ideas. Is anyone listening?

UPDATE: Frum is fired by the conservative American Enterprise Institute. Must maintain ideological purity, after all!


One Comment

  1. starluna wrote:

    I am inclined to agree that the passage of the health care reform bill was as necessary and as long overdue as the 1965 Civil Rights Act.

    Monday, March 22, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Permalink