Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer… they’ll compensate... with a big win in the November… But… It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the... immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs…
[T]he blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves. At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision… we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing... This would be Obama’s Waterloo... [W]e went for all the marbles, we ended with none. Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? …the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan [and to] Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994. Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire[?] … Too late now…
No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to... charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there –- would President Obama sign such a repeal?
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat. There were leaders who knew better… But they were trapped. Conservative talkers on Fox and talk radio had whipped the Republican voting base into such a frenzy that deal-making was rendered impossible. How do you negotiate with… somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother? … [O]verheated talk… mobilizes supporters –- but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination. When Rush Limbaugh said that he wanted President Obama to fail, he… omitted to say… what is equally true… that he also wants Republicans to fail. If Republicans succeed –- if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office –- Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds…. [T]oday’s defeat… is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.
From here, activists on the left need to press on to end the anti-trust exemption for insurance companies and fight to extend Medicare to ever more Americans as a way of dealing with outstanding problems in the for-profit system left intact by this bill. We now have a foothold from which to climb that sheer cliff face leading to single-payer. The obvious flaws in this progressive bill are no longer reasons to "kill the bill," but problems to be addressed with ever more progressive legislation by fighting liberals with the wind at our backs.
From here, activists on the right will find themselves on a scorched earth, the free market pieties they have been mouthing for thirty years ringing ever more hollow, the cohort of old white guys that defend them with shaking fists and the racist sexist homophobic war-mongers and gun-nuts who assemble in dwindling mobs to cheer them, appointing themselves "The Real Americans," looking ever less and less and less like the sensible secular multicultural America of actual reality.