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.