Bipartisanship, Health Care Reform & The Benefits Of Compromise

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I write one, Jason writes one, I write another, and Jason writes another.

And so I write this…

I don’t accept the premise that because the conversation isn’t less strident in the extreme left blogosphere that it creates a “disincentive” for Republicans to back health care reform. In fact, there are many more reasons for Republicans to support the Baucus legislation than to not…so let’s get in to those now…

Most hardcore liberals, especially the blogosphere variety, are completely against the Baucus bill. What this means is that the legislation will probably appeal to most independents, moderate Dems and moderate Repubs. Who decides elections? Every pollster alive will tell you it’s the swing voters. What do swing voters look for? Politicians who compromise. It’s not a difficult electoral calculation.

So, actually, the left railing against the bipartisan legislation as not pure enough should be an incentive for Republicans to support it so they can show independents that they’re learning from their historic defeat last fall.

Here’s another incentive for the Rs…their ideas get into the most important health care reform legislation in the past 50 years. Listen, they had the opportunity FOR DECADES to do something about health care and yet they sat on their hands and let millions go without health insurance, go bankrupt as a result of skyrocketing costs or simply were refused insurance because of pre-existing condition clauses. Well, now Repubs are seriously outnumbered and they’re in danger of not having a say if they don’t back the Baucus bill…which absolutely gives them a serious seat at the table. And, by the way, Dems don’t have to do that. And yet they are.

Want another incentive? How about containing health care costs? Baucus’ bill makes significant cuts in Medicare and CHIP and replaces it with private insurance. It doesn’t have an employer mandate. And the CBO actually said it’ll reduce the budget deficit after a decade. So they could actually make a very strong case to their base that this bill represents fiscal conservatism in action since Medicare is KILLING us and driving up the budget deficits.

So there are some of the incentives to sign on. I’m sure there could be some more, but those are all the high level, apparent ones.

Now then…what about the incentives not to?

First, it’ll piss off their base. But at this point do they really think the base won’t show up if they’re extreme enough to question whether or not Obama is a citizen? Again, let’s reference the swing voter logic. Any support they lose from their base will be offset by independent support due to their bipartisan nature. I think we all agree that the politicians that fall more in the middle are those who have more electoral success. Still…they could piss off their base.

Second, it’s a smart political move to oppose this because they can demagogue health care in 2010/2012. This is the only real reason I can think that makes any sense why they’d be against it, especially after they signed EVERYTHING Bush put in front of them (including that drug prescription bill). So all of sudden they’re finding fiscal conservative religion after Obama gets elected? Consider me unconvinced that this sudden turnaround is prompted by a bunch of left wing bloggers.

(At this point you’ll have to read Jason’s post to gain greater context for the next part, but he calls me naive. I take this with a grain of salt because I know Jason, I consider him a friend and I know he’s prone to hyperbole. Nonetheless…)

As far as naive, well, I’ll take the bait.

Who’s more naive…

  • The guy who’s telling Republicans they better wise up, play fair and sign on to a bill (that liberals are professing they hate) so they can have some say in the legislation and possibly win independents in 2010?
  • OR

  • The guy who’s basing the entire premise of his argument on the idea that leftist bloggers who demand ideological purity are somehow shaping the debate and moderate Dem bloggers have to answer them to such a degree that we reshape the debate or Republicans will not have incentive enough to play bipartisan ball?

Also, and let’s just get this out of the way now…hyper partisanship was started by the right wing shock jocks like Rush Limbaugh back in the 80s, was picked up by Newt Gingrich and Richard Mellon Scaife in the 90s and only until blogging started did Dems fight back in any demonstrable way. That certainly doesn’t excuse the truly moon-battiest of them all, but Republicans authored this playbook and have been using it for decades to flood the media with misinfo to shape the debate and win elections. Long story short, if hyperpartisanship is really creating the mood for Repubs to oppose health care, well, isn’t that a convenient whipping boy.

One last point and then I’m ready to bury this topic and move on since it’s pretty obvious that Jason and simply aren’t going to agree…Moderate Dems like myself do not own the tone and tenor of the debate on the left, nor are we responsible for monitoring it and calling people out. I, and my reasonable blogging friends, started this mid-o-sphere as a place where real debate can happen. That’s our contribution. It’s not sexy and it takes a lot of work, but I think we do a decent job at it. Sure, on occasion I’ll call somebody out on here, as I did with Pelosi earlier this summer, but when I’m arguing policy and intentions (as I’m doing in this health care debate) I don’t think I need to take into account the effect that some bloggers on the left are having on the mindset and motivations of Republican politicians. There will ALWAYS be people yelling on both sides, and, as I mentioned above, that should be incentive for politicians to move towards the middle, not further left or right.

As always, thanks for reading and I welcome your thoughts.