Obama’s Persistence and the Republicans’ Discipline

I’m happy health care reform passed, but don’t worry, I’m not going to go into my reasons. I believe that baby has already been thoroughly thrashed about, pro and con.

What interests me now is: what next?

Republicans made an electoral bet that the nation hated reform so much that the elephants could ride “no” to victory. And indeed, all the polling data suggested so.

America remains a 50/50 nation, with the two sides more polarized than ever, but independent voters came down solidly against the health care reform bill.

However, between now and the November elections is a political lifetime. It could be that the Republican furor peaked too soon. I thought Obama came off pretty well in the last month before passage—reasonable, clear, and strong. And I’m pretty sure the sky won’t fall, as the Republicans repeatedly predicted it would—at least, it won’t fall before November.

So we’ll see. If independent voters are really convinced that Obama is CEO of Big Government Takeovers, there will be a big swing toward Republicans, the kind of movement we saw in the Massachusetts Senate race.

But if they’re not solidly convinced of that, and health care doesn’t deteriorate dramatically, and the economy picks up a little, and nothing else goes wrong, it’s likely that the Democrats will see only a modest slide, such as the majority party nearly always experiences.

If the Democrats don’t collapse, we’ll see whether Republican leaders can keep their troops 100% unified in opposition to all things Obama. It’s not a natural state for politicians to refuse to negotiate. Republicans have the forty Senate votes to stop anything. But it’s just as hard for them to keep everybody on the reservation as it was for Obama to keep all his 60 votes in line when he had them.

In the health care battle two character qualities stood out: Obama’s persistence, and the Republicans’ discipline. I think we know now that Obama is not a quitter. He’s going to keep on trying to get things done. Will the Republicans maintain absolute unanimity in the face of it? Persistence vs. discipline. We’ll see.

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2 Responses to “Obama’s Persistence and the Republicans’ Discipline”

  1. Bill Reichert Says:

    Good analysis, Tim. You’re right: six months or more is a political lifetime and anything can happen. I’m somewhat surprised by President Obama’s apparent flexibility, as well as by the Republicans’ apparent unity. We’ll see if that can continue!

    The President’s prospects seem to me to hinge on the public’s perception of his direction from here on out. He may be cut some slack if things don’t fall apart, and it’s likely that won’t happen in any event by the fall (if it happens, it will take several “political lifetimes” to occur and to be perceived by most of the electorate). But what will hurt him is any further legislation understood to dramatically increase federal spending. The public appetite for that just isn’t there. Frankly, I see the deficit increasing so substantially that increased taxes will be well neigh inevitable. If that can’t be put off until after the election, it will hurt the Democrats.

    Keep in mind that most of the beneficiaries of the new health bill are likely to be folks whose consistency in voting is rather spotty. This could change if taxpayers making up to $88,000 a year really can get a federal subsidy to help pay their insurance premiums. But the cost of providing such subsidies is so huge that if enforced it really will have to push up taxes–and fast. Even by the Budgeting Office’s own estimates, cost savings from the health bill (which I think are largely illusory) aren’t likely to kick in for several years yet. So it will be a tightrope walk: spread the benefits well up into the middle class by substantial subsidies and risk a tax disaster, or keep them confined to those on the economic margin, who may not vote (much less vote for you) at all.

  2. Josh Saint Jacque Says:

    Excellent point. I would point out that while MA is a very liberal state, there are about 40 Democrats in the House that are moderates from red and moderate states. So, I think the concern for the Democrats is that this group will be wiped out, and I think they will be. That will give the GOP control of the House. You are right, if the economy improves more than a little between now and November anything could happen. We’ll see.

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