The mid-terms are shaping up to be a referendum on health care reform, and that is a good thing for Democrats.
This seems counter-intuitive to informed policy-progressives right now because we know how crappy this reform looks to be, especially considering how far it is from what we wanted. But the fact is that Americans really do want a more just and more sensible healthcare system, they overwhelmingly approve of healthcare reform.
Part of the reason things have seemed rather bleak for Democrats in the midst of the reform morass is because the negativity of those who are angry and disappointed with reform because it isn't going nearly far enough is lumped together with the negativity of those who are enraged and freaked out with reform because they think it is going too far, combining into a kind of monolithic negativity all of which has been bearing down on Democrats as they struggle their way through a broken process to get something done despite absolute Republican obstructionism and cynical veto-empowered Conservadems.
But this now-monolithic negativity gets split the moment a bill passes and when mid-term campaigns are cast as referenda on health care reform. And it is Republicans who have by far the shorter end of the split stick here. They have whomped up their crazytown base with tales of socialism and fascism and death panels, and they are about to reap the whirlwind.
They must campaign on repealing the bill in its eeeevil totality. Democrats need only reply by pointing to all the incredibly popular provisions of the bill that the Republicans are forced to oppose by the extremity of their opposition to healthcare reform as such. As Marshall paints the picture of the scene of a debate between a Democrat and their Republican opponent:
"You really want to bring back denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions?" Do you really want to get rid of X, Y and Z? Or perhaps you flip it and just make it an assertion since anyone who wants to repeal reform by definition wants to get rid of those things too.
Healthcare reform is popular, and through their monolithic obstructionism and hyperbolic rhetoric Republicans have forced themselves into the corner of having to run on the terribly unpopular idea that the status quo is preferable to imperfect reform that addresses widely-perceived problems.
Democrats don't have to descend into policy details, they can run on the poetry of reform and spotlight popular outcomes, but Republicans will have to make such a descent to find some way through this anti-governmental maze they're in.
This is the best of all possible worlds for Democrats because Republicans can't win wonk wars since they are wrong on all the details and in any case every nuance will seem to their base a compromise with principle that will risk their disaffection. Democrats can respond to flaws in the reform by saying they hope to go back and tinker and improve what they passed if America elects enough of them to overcome "Party of NO" obstructionism.
I do think historical trends will likely hold true, anti-incumbency and a skew to base voters in mid-terms will both yield Democratic losses in both Houses, but I think we can hold controlling majorities in both and if we can this means it will be possible to revisit the filibuster at the open of the next session and possible to hold back Republicans doing their worst. This sets the stage for Democratic gains in the Presidential campaign and, one hopes, sufficient majorities to do more of what elected Democrats really want to do and the American people who elected them to do than has been possible under The Phony Majority.