Waterloo

March 21st, 2010 at 4:59 pm David Frum | 374 Comments |

| Print

Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s.

It’s hard to exaggerate the magnitude of the disaster. Conservatives may cheer themselves that they’ll compensate for today’s expected vote with a big win in the November 2010 elections. But:

(1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November – by then the economy will have improved and the immediate goodies in the healthcare bill will be reaching key voting blocs.

(2) So what? Legislative majorities come and go. This healthcare bill is forever. A win in November is very poor compensation for this debacle now.

So far, I think a lot of conservatives will agree with me. Now comes the hard lesson:

A huge part of the blame for today’s disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves.

At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994.

Only, the hardliners overlooked a few key facts: Obama was elected with 53% of the vote, not Clinton’s 42%. The liberal block within the Democratic congressional caucus is bigger and stronger than it was in 1993-94. And of course the Democrats also remember their history, and also remember the consequences of their 1994 failure.

This time, when we went for all the marbles, we ended with none.

Could a deal have been reached? Who knows? But we do know that 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. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994.

Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views? To finance it without redistributive taxes on productive enterprise – without weighing so heavily on small business – without expanding Medicaid? Too late now. They are all the law.

No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed.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 re-open the “doughnut hole” and 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, who would have liked to deal. 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 who wants to murder your grandmother? Or – more exactly – with somebody whom your voters have been persuaded to believe wants to murder their grandmother?

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it 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 was intelligently explaining his own interests. What he omitted to say – but what is equally true – is 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.

So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values 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.

Follow David Frum on Twitter: @davidfrum

Comments have been reopened!

Recent Posts by David Frum



374 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    Yay, welcome to reality tea folk. Thanks David for posting this. Your side could have cut a deal, this legislation is not far from Nixon’s plan, romneycare or even the McCain plan. However as you say the loons won the day in your party.

    Best of luck repubs, you made your bed with the nut-jobs like Beck, Hannity, Bachman, Palin and the rest of the death panel idiots. Now lie in it.

  • tomtom

    It was one thing in ’94 when the Republicans said the sky would fall over the budget bill – that was a fight only wonks watched.

    But now, when HCR dooesn’t cause a federal takeover of health care, when it turns out to be imperfect but did not kill grandma, and delivered a few benefits along the way, what will happen?

    Republicans not only chose not to participate, and therefore chose not to influence, but they also can’t maintain credibility as the sky stubbornly remains overhead.

    It really can make problems when yahoos are allowed to become the voice of a major party.

  • Churl

    So tell me, what sort of deal could the Republicans have gotten? Which of the things in the bill that conservatives deem undesirable would Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have bargained away, and for what in return? What could Republicans have added to the bill that conservatives would like, and what would have to have given away to get it?

    Frum and Chums have said for months that Republican complicity in this monster could have improved the outcome, but gave no specifics, just suggested trying to get some compromise out of the most intractably left wing congress and executive ever seen in this country.

    Had they compromised, they would have only gotten to choose the bread for a dog-excrement sandwich that will leave a nasty taste in the mouths of voters for years to come.

  • sinz54

    Frum: Barack Obama badly wanted Republican votes for his plan. Could we have leveraged his desire to align the plan more closely with conservative views?
    No. Impossible.

    TerryF99: Your side could have cut a deal, this legislation is not far from Nixon’s plan, romneycare or even the McCain plan.
    No. Not true. Not possible.

    Olympia Snowe tried to work with Baucus for the better part of six months. In the end, she failed.

    Politico.com had an interesting piece this morning which explained why: The real power in this health care reform effort wasn’t Baucus (whom Snowe was working with), or even President Obama. No, the real power was Nancy Pelosi, who refused to budge an inch when Scott Brown won in MA, who insisted on an expansive liberal bill. Pelosi had a comfortable majority in the House. So unlike the Senate, she was not rattled by the Scott Brown win in MA and wasn’t deflected even one inch from the same damn plan she had been pushing all year.

    Nixon was NOT an economic conservative. You’re talking about a President who imposed wage and price controls (which failed of course)–remember?

    There is absolutely nothing that economic conservatives could have proposed that Nancy Pelosi would have accepted. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Pelosi is a true believer, a doctrinaire ultra-liberal from San Francisco, immune to any appeals about costs or employing free market approaches.

    McCain and the Heritage Foundation wanted to open up the health insurance market to more competition. But Pelosi and her fellow leftists don’t believe that competition offers any advantages.

    It is now widely accepted among economic conservatives that RomneyCare was a mistake, since it failed to control costs.

    The only “compromise” that Pelosi accepted was giving up on the public option, which wasn’t due to GOP opposition but due to opposition from moderates within her own party.

    I don’t see it. It’s like excoriating Code Pink for not compromising with Bush on the Iraq War.

  • mlindroo

    The great irony here is that Republicans may well have managed to kill the bill if only they had been able to sincerely pretend they wanted bipartisan health care reform… The main reason why there was so little progress last fall was Baucus & co. were scared shit of voting for a 100% Democratic bill. They were bending over backwards to accommodate centrist GOP Senators, and they would very much have preferred to have a few Republicans such as Olympia Snowe on board even if it meant the Bernie Sanderses on the left would have voted against.

    Of course, bipartisan support would further complicated negotiations so there would have been lots of room for Republicans to drag their feet while further nudging the health care bill to the right. Mitch McConnell’s total refusal to cooperate meant the Dems (who have a 59% majority, remember!) could win just by avoiding defections.

    MARCU$

  • ottovbvs

    “There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. But they were trapped.”

    …….Er…… so who were these profiles in courage David?…..I agree that the plan shares similarities with the MA program but that’s been disowned effectively by it’s leading Republican author…..the reality of course was that those “leaders” in congress were determined to deny the Obama administration any sort of legislative triumph…..they weren’t even willing to support the stimulus program even though the economy risked slipping into a depression and most serious conservative economists said it was essential….. so they as sure as hell weren’t going seriously pursue healthcare reform…..the Heritage plan that was essentially McCain’s program is a stalling tactic with numbers that don’t work……otherwise you’re largely right……..rumors of Democratic death in November have been somewhat exaggerated……it’s never going to be repealed……this is a huge defeat for Republicans and a huge victory for Obama and Pelosi…… but you’re wrong in one final thing….. I don’t think you’re going to find that many conservatives to agree with you.

  • sinz54

    One more thing. A couple days ago, Pelosi told reporters that the basic structure of ObamaCare–guaranteed issue plus a mandate on all Americans plus subsidies for the underprivileged–was not open to negotiation, because all the parts were interdependent.

    That makes cutting a deal impossible. It meant that all Republicans could even hope for was to tweak a detail here or there, but the guaranteed issue, mandate and subsidies would remain intact no matter what.

    That makes any sort of real deal impossible. As I said, it would be like Code Pink offering this compromise to President Bush: “OK, we’ll sign onto the Iraq War, but just try not to kill so many civilians.”

  • lowandslow

    Deal? With who? Obama, Reid and Pelosi weren’t going to make any deals with Republicans, why would they? They got what they wanted didn’t they? How in God’s name is this the Republicans fault?
    Really, what did you think they could do? Do you think Cantor, Boehner, McConnell, etc. were going to be begging for meetings so they could compromise on some sort of plan where the feds only take control of 90% of the healthcare industry and only further bankrupt us a slightly less amount?
    Come on Frum, you’re better then this.

  • mlindroo

    Sinz54 wrote:
    > The real power in this health care reform effort wasn’t Baucus (whom Snowe was working with),
    >or even President Obama. No, the real power was Nancy Pelosi, who refused to budge an inch
    >when Scott Brown won in MA, who insisted on an expansive liberal bill

    Isn’t the final health care bill essentially the more centrist Senate version, with a handful of House amendments to remove things like the Cornhusker Kickback?

    MARCU$

  • diddle

    This is, sadly, uncharacteristically rational and well-thought. It’s uncharacteristic of the hot air and impolitic bluster that has unfortunately characterized the Republican opposition since the rise of the Tea Party. Governance in Washington, the framing of legislation, should involve both sides of the aisle. The wholly partisan disinclination to engage in policy, beyond the churning of outright falsehoods to outrage one’s “base,” has been the most disheartening development in recent American politics. The Republican party, and good-faith political conservatism, would do well to recognize the limitations of such an approach, as David knowledgeably advises.

  • ottovbvs

    mlindroo // Mar 21, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    “The great irony here is that Republicans may well have managed to kill the bill if only they had been able to sincerely pretend they wanted bipartisan health care reform…”

    …….Naah…. not really….. they did pretend for months…..Remember Grassley the late convert to death panels……the problem is you can only stall for so long and finally the other side figures out what you’re up to…….the Democrats were always going to get some sort of reform package because elections have consequences and that means they get to have quite a lot of say about what goes in the final package (Sinz please note….it’s called the democratic process with a small d)……they didn’t get the PO but otherwise they got everything they wanted and the PO is not going away……it could be tacked onto another bill and passed on recon at any moment so that will keep McConnell awake at nights.

  • Span Ows

    Is it over? The abortion agreement announced earlier – is it genuine? – should give the DEMs enough.

  • lowandslow

    diddle,
    “Governance in Washington, the framing of legislation, should involve both sides of the aisle.”

    You and Frum are looking at this in political terms, this bill isn’t about politics, it’s about ideology. This wasn’t Health Care Reform legislation, this bill is nothing more then a mechanism to implement the government takeover of the healthcare industry. There were no deals to be had, the insurance mandate isn’t about giving people access because it won’t and there’s no cost saving measures in the bill because it isn’t about cost. The only reform in the bill is lower quality and amount of care and more unfunded liability.

  • TerryF98

    Hey healthcare reform is old news.

    Let’s celebrate then press on with Cap and trade, Immigration reform and getting out of Bush’s wars and recession. All by October.

  • lowandslow

    ottovbvs,
    “they didn’t get the PO but otherwise they got everything they wanted and the PO is not going away”

    They did get the public option, it’s just going to take a little longer. Once the mandate kicks in they will have their public option only it will be called your healthcare withholding tax. There is no way it can’t happen.

  • Healthcare Reform will PASS today! - PreCentral Forums

    [...] author David Frum had a very revealing blog entry today. Among the interesting items (bold items mine): [...]

  • johnt1977

    The Democrats forced through an unpopular and disaster of a bill through parliamentary procedures and backroom deals. It’s a slap in the face to the American public. Republicans should be proud of their no votes. As for negotiations, it wasn’t Republicans, but the Democratic leadership that made it clear early on that there would be no real negotiations. Any compromises by Republicans would only serve to legitimize the bill.

  • tomtom

    Wow. I see a lot of passionate assertions but little argument.

    Of course Republicans could have had a lot of influence. The Democrats just barely managed to push this through, and the lack of a single Republican vote denies critical political cover come November. OF COURSE they would have compromised.

    HCR is not single payer (unlike Medicare, which is nonetheless beloved by Republicans everywhere). It keeps the present employer-based system and private insurance. Describing it as the dream plan of the far left is fantasy – the far left can barely stand it.

    It really is quite close to Romneycare and the plans the Republicans put up against ClintonCare in the 90′s.

    The Republicans decided to go zero sum on this one, and the problem with zero sum is that when you lose you lose 100%. Considering the Republicans almost pulled it off it is hard to say it was a bad decision except with the benefit of hindsight, but it did not work, and it is not leaving the Republicans well-positioned as the rather moderate reality of the bill sinks in with the nation at large. A lot of people will start to wonder why it was described in such apocalyptic terms.

  • MSheridan

    A huge setback for Republicans, yes, but their biggest problem is that their agenda has become literally incredible. The wider electorate wholly disbelieves the rhetoric about smaller government coming from Republicans and isn’t sure why it should want it even if it did believe. Moreover, Republicans have no sustained track record of follow through except on tax cuts that benefit the wealthy alone (estate tax, anyone?).

    The one Republican leader who actually substantially lowered taxes on the middle class was Reagan, although of course he lowered taxes on the rich a heck of a lot more. While lowering taxes, he instituted the beginning of an orgy of deficit spending under Republican Presidents that has near bankrupted the nation. Next to “borrow and spend,” the old accusation leveled at Democrats of being “tax and spenders” starts looking fiscally responsible in comparison.

    Then we get a fiscal meltdown (under a Republican President too, although that was largely coincidence) and when economists on the left, middle, and right all say that government action is imperative to prevent utter catastrophe, the opinion makers of the Republican Party come out swinging against it. The American people aren’t stupid; they’re just not usually paying much attention. We’ve been paying much more attention the last few years. One party looks (at least in the light available) more adult than the other. The Tea Partiers may not be Republicans, but they seem affiliated and haven’t exactly helped the Republican image by engaging in exactly the same sort of attention-grabbing publicity stunts that for so long have been derided (rightly or wrongly) when engaged in by the left wing of the Democratic base.

    When Republicans stop sounding unhinged and start talking about fiscal conservatism in terms other than the looniest sort of supply side voodoo economics (a Republican originally came up with that phrase), maybe they’ll win more battles. However, I don’t think they can at this point. Conservatives like Frum used to be comfortable in the party. Heck, he wrote speeches for a Republican President. Now? Now he’s practically in exile for holding positions which are not remotely liberal but have a fairly consistent conservative worldview behind them.

    I actually feel slightly sorry for him.

  • mlloyd

    the gap between this plan and traditional Republican ideas is not very big.

    Exactly. This is the Dole/Baker plan. This isn’t that big a policy defeat.

    The Democrats negotiated away a whole bunch– ie, the public option– in exchange for zero Republican votes. Grassley favored an individual mandate a few months ago; once it became part of the proposal, he pretended to believe that it was unconstitutional. http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_02/022592.php

    I don’t see why this is all that bad for the GOP, except to the extent that it boosts Democratic morale.

  • Jefferson Smith

    I don’t quite understand the argument here. If the plan the Democrats are passing has such a good Republican pedigree (Romney, Heritage Foundation, etc.), then how is this such an “abject and irreversible defeat” for Republicans? Seems like you could just as well argue that it’s a delayed victory for moderate conservative governance: What were once Republican proposals have become the new doctrine of the Democratic Party, shoving aside most of what the left wing of that party actually wants (single-payer etc.). Big win for the Heritage Foundation! All they had to do was be patient, and eventually a Democratic president and Congress did their dirty work for them.

    The “Waterloo” thesis seems to me more plausible if argued this way: 100% Republican rejectionism clarifies the issues going forward. If the idea that you can’t be arbitrarily denied health care in this country becomes popular — as it is in every other Western country, and in this country for senior citizens — then Democrats can run campaigns for the next 30 years reminding voters that the Democratic Party gave them this with zero help and nothing but obstruction from Republicans, who stood foursquare in defense of insurance company recissions and other such practices that will be looked back upon in horror. And particularly if Republicans run, as they swear they’re going to, on repealing reform, it will be very easy to make that case: “My opponent wants to go back to the days when you could be thrown off your insurance, when you and even your children could be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions.” NOW you’re talking Waterloo.

  • booch221

    “There were leaders who knew better, who would have liked to deal. 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.”

    I must disagree. Republican congressional leaders Mitch McConnell and John Boehner made a conscience decision to kill HCR from the very beginning.

    If they cannot stand up to the Limbaughs, Becks and Hannitys, then they don’t belong in leadership positions. Instead they aligned themselves with the conservative entertainment industry, and hoped it would carry them to victory. Sad and cynical.

  • lowandslow

    “HCR is not single payer (unlike Medicare, which is nonetheless beloved by Republicans everywhere). It keeps the present employer-based system and private insurance.”

    It does no such thing, what is wrong with you people? It’s designed to eliminate the employer based system and private insurance. That’s all the mandate is about. Didn’t you ever ask yourself why the fine for employers not providing access is so low? Did you stop and think why the fine for private citizens not having insurance is so low? Why in the world would anyone buy insurance until they’re sick? There’s no reason to when the fine cost less then insurance.

  • (Ind.-NYC)

    David, thank you for expressing all of the reasons I’ve been remarkably uncomfortable with the direction the Republican discourse has taken. As an independent (who admittedly probably leans a little to the progressive side on welfare issues), I just find it difficult to listen to the Republican party on this issue. Firstly, I do note that a lot of this policy reflects a number of proposals put forth by the Republican party in the past, and that according to the CBO it makes inroads towards deficit reduction. I find the Republican proposal but forth by Rep. Boehner entirely underwhelming in that it doesn’t go as far on the scale the CBO measures (numbers insured, deficit reductions, cost reductions). The Republican retort to move slowly on this issue because of the complexity of this nation smacks of the sort of “American Incrementalism” that is extremely unbecoming.

    The second (and most critical) factor that turns me away is the viciousness of the way this has been debated. When you have people calling the President a socialist; reputedly calling members of the loyal opposition by racial and homophobic epithets; being filmed mocking those in need; and unfurling ridiculous banners that amount to a call to armed violence against government; and when you foster all of this by asserting the existence of nefariously-named politburo’s like “death panels”: how am I supposed to take you seriously? How can I possible listen to any alternative policy that you crafted?

  • theod

    Frum is the first to not recognize that the current Republican Leadership he excoriates here is composed of the logical successors of the Atwater/Rovian/Gingrich/Luntz/FOX-style of politics. He liked it a lot better when it put people like himself in positions of greater influence. Now that it has degenerated to its base level of foolishness, he’s concerned and ringing his hands. He also, of course, fails to identify the leaders who knew better and yet didn’t have the guts to countermand FOX/McConnell/Boehner. He also fails to acknowledge the Southern Rump of Racism prevalent in the Republican Party, from Birtherism to racist jokes & graphics (see NRCC Fundraiser PowerPoint Display).

  • tomtom

    Jefferson, it is an abject defeat because the Republicans chose to frame HCR as the coming apocalypse. HCR actually does have a good Republican pedigree, which is why there was plenty to work with had the Republicans decided to play ball.

    Note that Dole and Howard Baker both supported the bill!! They were not going to support a truly left wing approach!!

    The Republican leadership made a political calculation that they could kill the bill if the refused to let it be bi-partisan. They figured that many people would see that as proof that it is not a one-sided bill. After all, if it is a moderate plan why can’t it get one single Republican vote?

    It was a clever strategy, and it almost worked. Calling a moderate bill extreme is a pretty canny play, and I hand it to the Republicans for playing that hand as well as they did.

    The problem is that it did not work, and now people will really learn what the bill is because it will affect their lives. Some people will resent the individula mandate. Others will be relieved that they are no longer trapped in a job they don’t like. Some will like what it does for them and others won’t. What won’t happen is a government takeover, or death panels killing granny. People will see it for what it is, a moderate reform.

  • Thomas

    I find this whole argument incredibly strange, and strained.

    The Republican leadership in the House and Senate has, for the first time in several years, both taken the side of and provided leadership to the American people.

    Frum says they’ve lost, which is certainly true, but that’s to say that they lost in November of 2008. This was all baked in at that point, with the only question whether the Democrats would lose their nerve. In the end, they didn’t.

    That’s a straightforward political analysis, which you’d think Frum would be able to provide. But he’d rather focus on policy where, unfortunately, he has less than nothing to offer. He suggests that the gap between the Obama plan and traditional Republican ideas isn’t very big, and says that the gap represents an abject and irreversible defeat. The thinking here is obviously confused, to be gentle.

    As it happens, the Obama plan has very little in common with traditional Republican ideas. And that’s why this is such a disappointing day. This bill is a bad bill, and will lead to worse, as night follows day. But to understand that, to understand why this won’t work, and why that didn’t matter to those in charge, one would have to understand a little bit about health care policy. Frum doesn’t care at all about it. He’s focused on winning some argument with Sarah Palin. Good for him, but what a waste of time for the rest of us.

  • MSheridan

    Jefferson Smith:I don’t quite understand the argument here. If the plan the Democrats are passing has such a good Republican pedigree (Romney, Heritage Foundation, etc.), then how is this such an “abject and irreversible defeat” for Republicans? Seems like you could just as well argue that it’s a delayed victory for moderate conservative governance: What were once Republican proposals have become the new doctrine of the Democratic Party, shoving aside most of what the left wing of that party actually wants (single-payer etc.). Big win for the Heritage Foundation! All they had to do was be patient, and eventually a Democratic president and Congress did their dirty work for them.Well enough, if one accepts the basic premise. However, it’s still a problem for the Republican Party is that it makes the Democratic Party the natural home of those moderate conservatives who used to vote the other ticket. I don’t believe many will stay in a party in which they are out of step (too far left) from a calculated strategy of moving the Overton Window rightward.

  • sinz54

    tomtom: It really is quite close to Romneycare and the plans the Republicans put up against ClintonCare in the 90’s.
    I live in MA where RomneyCare has been in effect for three or four years.

    And Blue Cross/Blue Shield of MA just raised my premium by 44%.

    That’s what worries me. ObamaCare is quite close to RomneyCare in that it’s all about expanding coverage and very little about cost containment. The idea that mandating universal coverage would bring enough people into the system so that it would pay for itself has proven to be false. Because once those new people came into the system, they started demanding the same generous level of care that the rest of us had enjoyed–pushing up prices even further. The uninsured get less care. Bring them into the system with a mandate and they get lots more care–at a huge cost.

    I’ll say it again: If Olympia Snowe couldn’t cut a deal that would last, then no other Republican could either. Because she’s to the left of the Senate Republicans.

    And in the House, Pelosi neither needed nor wanted any deals with Republicans.

  • rbottoms

    Ha. Ha.

    ~ Nelson Muntz

  • 24AheadDotCom

    What? Sending barely coherent loons out to wave loopy signs and throw tantrums at public meeting resulted in failure? Who coulda guessed it?

    Oh, wait, I did. In fact, for over three years I’ve been pushing a plan that could have been used to block or modify HCR (or amnesty, or a host of other issues). It’s an ideology-neutral plan that could be used for just about any topic. Yet, I’ve had almost zero success getting others to help promote it. Here it is:

    http://24ahead.com/s/question-authority

    It’s long past time to take a close look at those who encouraged or enabled completely ineffective tantrums, such as Freedomworks, Instapundit and a whole host of his r/w blogger link targets, and even some GOP leaders.

  • lowandslow

    tomtom,
    “What won’t happen is a government takeover, or death panels killing granny. People will see it for what it is, a moderate reform.”

    It is a government takeover and there will be rationing there is no way you can get around it. Are you people really that uninformed on what this bill does? Nevermind, I know you are but so are most people that dead set against it only they do so because Rush and Beck tell them they should be. They’re as clueless as you are.
    This bill will bankrupt the healthcare insurance industry, bankrupt most heathcare providers and bankrupt the states leaving the federal government to takeover. As I said before, this legislation makes it unavoidable. Nobody is going to buy healthcare insurance when the fine is less then buying it, there’s no reason to.

  • knowtheory

    @Jefferson Smith:

    The distinction i would draw is between Principle, Policy and Politics. If the dems succeed in passing everything they need to, this is a massive epic defeat for the Republican party on the Politics of the situation. I agree that this is actually probably a policy victory for conservatives, and one that genuinely rankles liberals and anyone who actually pays attention to how health care systems are run. But at the same time it is also a loss on Principle for the primary wing of the Republican party who have been conjuring up boogiemen and platitudes for the past 30 years.

    The sad fact of the matter is that “No government is good government” is just not a principle that one can govern from. And when faced with an obvious and blatant systemic problem such as the ones that health care present even Republicans will concede that something must be done (Only some truly factless tea partiers are willing to bite that bullet).

    Conceding the problem then only leaves you with the questions what is to be done and by whom – in other words – questions of policy. The Republicans, however, have been unwilling to engage on the policy front at any cost (and this is fundamentally the problem that Frum has with Republican strategy) and have basically put themselves in a situation where the only way they could win, is a complete and utter collapse of the Democratic Party. The Dems remember 1994 though, and know what that game looks like, which at this point leads us to where we are.

    Failure of Republican Principle, failure of Republican Politics (except to have resurrected the John Birch Society), and a lukewarm policy victory which will, in the end be remembered as a Democratic initiative, fought tooth and nail by the Republican party and all self-identified conservatives.

    Conservatives may have won the policy issue (and i am still pissed about that), but they’ve lost the center in doing so.

  • rbottoms

    Conservatives may have won the policy issue (and i am still pissed about that), but they’ve lost the center in doing so.

    Dear GOP,

    BOHICA.

    Signed,
    The Democratic Party

    Best day to be a Democrat since Obama was elected.

  • Conservatives and Republicans today suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s. « JoeWo Joe Wosik Blog

    [...] Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum explains that the place the Teabaggers brought the GOP is a place that is a no win location.  Story is located here [...]

  • knowtheory

    @ lowandslow

    We already have rationing. Insurance companies already kick people off their rolls (even if you’ve paid them!), and hospitals turn homeless people out onto the streets.

    And even if it were to bankrupt us, the current trajectory for the health care system is *already* bankruptcy. At least the Dems are *trying* to do something about it. If you don’t like it, suggest something else. And Tort reform is a really dumb suggestion, but even so, it’s one that the Dems in power now would accept/consider! But it’s still not going to change the landscape of health costs. We have to do something to move away from where we are, doing nothing is not an option, nor are any of the Republican party’s current suggestions.

    What else should be done?

  • A Republican Waterloo | Republicans United.

    [...] David Frum lets conservatives and Republicans have it for their intransigence during the health care…: At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing. We were going for all the marbles. This would be Obama’s Waterloo – just as healthcare was Clinton’s in 1994. [...]

  • tomtom

    Lowandslow

    The bill has a lot of small stuff, but the big parts are:

    1. Community rating (no more denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions)
    2. Individual mandate (keeps the risk pool wide)
    3. Premium subsidies for the poor (makes the mandate affordable at the lower end)

    None of these will bankrupt the insurance companies. Watch their stock. It will neither soar nor tank. How do I know? If their survival was on the line they would have opposed this with all they had, as they did against ClintonCare. They have instead played both sides, a sure indication thhey believe they can make either outcome work.

    Reading inside your assertions there is one argument “Nobody is going to buy healthcare insurance when the fine is less then buying it, there’s no reason to.”

    You are correct that the bill has a penalty small enough so that there might be enough opting out that the risk pool is too narrow. Your phrasing is as always extreme; many people will buy insurance because they are responsible people, and they want to cover themselves provided the premiums are affordable, but bluster aside you have a point.

    Yet consider, what happens if the individual and small business rates climb because too many people are opting out and then free-loading when they get sick? Why would we stand by while the insurance market goes into crisis and then “takeover”? The easy fix is to raise the penalty.

    The history of entitlements in the US is that they are established with a lot of political compromises which get fixed over time. After a while they become very popular and both parties protect them (did you see the Republicans defend Medicare?)

    Some folks do not like entitlements on principle, and they will never like HCR just as they never liked Medicare or Social Security.

    THOSE PEOPLE ARE A MINORITY. They do not win elections.

  • RightKlik

    So here’s the Frum strategy:

    The GOP should have cooperated with the Dems. The Republicans could have negotiated a plan more like RomneyCare…which is almost exactly like ObamaCare.

    FANTASTIC strategy.

  • lowandslow

    knowtheory,
    “And even if it were to bankrupt us, the current trajectory for the health care system is *already* bankruptcy. At least the Dems are *trying* to do something about it.”

    Yes, bankrupt the industry so they can step in and run it. And it will be run like any other government bureaucracy, slow, inefficient and costly. Did you even know why healthcare cost continue to rise? It’s because the cost of the government involvement in healthcare we have now. Were paying for Medicare and Medicaid shortfalls already through rising costs. They don’t pay for the services they take, everyone else does.

    tomtom
    “The easy fix is to raise the penalty.”

    They don’t want to raise the penalty they want the healthcare insurance industry to go under. Why is that so hard to understand? They will fail, the bill is designed so that they will. It’s what they want.

  • TerryF98

    “BTW, two hundred thousand people showed up in DC today to march for immigration reform. Using Michelle Malkin and teabagger math, that is like eleventy billion people.

    As I write this, there is no mention of this march on CNN, USA Today, Fox, MSNBC, the NY Times. The Washington Post mentions it in passing. Maybe they should carry guns next time to get some attention.”

    H/T Bjuice

  • knowtheory

    @lowandslow

    Do you think the FDIC is slow, inefficient and costly?

    Besides if medicare is ripping us off so badly, doesn’t that just imply that medicare should actually cost *more* than it does now? Would medicare paying more, or ceasing to exist actually help reduce health care costs over all?

    Regardless, nobody has given a credible explanation of why a single payer system is bad (it’s not), nor why conservatives in particular wouldn’t want to be engaged in the process of either preventing the health care system (as we have it) from collapsing under costs, or if the government does need to step in, crafting what government’s role in the health care system should be.

    But, as it stands, no engagement, only insults, lies and aspersions. :(

  • tomtom

    lowandslow

    “They don’t want to raise the penalty they want the healthcare insurance industry to go under. Why is that so hard to understand? They will fail, the bill is designed so that they will. It’s what they want”

    You can read other people’s minds!

    The left do not like the insurance companies; they wanted single payer. The center is OK with insurance companies and they prevailed in this bill. It is possible that some on the left see all of this as a ploy setting the stage for a government takeover, but they wouold need Republican cooperation!

    This about what will happen in real life:

    Scenario: Excessive opting out raises rates and threatens to unbalance the system

    Left response: Take over health care!
    Center response: Raise the penalty
    Right response: Raise the penalty

    Result, penalty is raised. The politics simply do not favor your scenario. This is a 50/50 nation.

    I sense something very near paranoia at work here.

  • ottovbvs

    ….You only need to read some of the hard right comments here to realize they have little interest in David’s fairly accurate take on events ……all the old hyperbole is still around….. “bankrupt the nation” even though it’s going to cost rather less than the Iraq war to end 2011 and according to the CBO actually reduces the deficit……”we’re now in an East German socialist state” so folks are going to be surprised the Stasi doesn’t show up at their next doctor’s appointment……the supreme irony in David’s largely accurate and reality based piece is that he and other idealogues from the 90′/00′s are largely responsible for this state of affairs……they roused the peasantry when they were useful and now they have got ideas above their station and are using the Chippendale furniture as kindling and the Ming china as pisspots……Finally his lightbulb seems to have come on but no one on the right is listening which is great news for Democrats as they move onto financial regulation and the Republicans defend the bankers to the death……”Make my day” says Barney…..and someone else whose name eludes me.

  • ottovbvs

    tomtom // Mar 21, 2010 at 7:30 pm

    ……Basically you’re not far off the mark although I think we see legislation before your tipping point arrives but lowandslow and others are so far detached from the realities of life (which leads me to believe most are conservative students) that you’re never going to convince him.

  • mark1111

    You guys seem to have forgotten that David Frum is from Canada and has only been a US citizen for a little over two years. He knows that single-payer health care – which took care of his mother when she was dying of leukemia – is not the end of the world, nor is it the creeping hand of socialism.

    He also knows what happened when the doctors ‘went Galt’ in Saskatchewan in 1962 to protest the introduction of single-payer insurance in Canada: nothing. Nobody came to support them at their rallies and the doctors were back on the job after three weeks. When the vote came for federal single-payer insurance in 1966, it was 177-2 because the patchwork system Canada had before was so unpopular.

    Elderly Americans love Medicare. So do their children. So does the Republican party (or so they say). So the attempt to make this particular health care reform bill into an extremist piece of legislation was a huge risk, and one, even if it was successful, that I don’t think would have benefited the Republican party in the long run.

  • vlyman

    best and most honest article I’ve seen on this yet.

  • balconesfault

    I see Sinz still insisting that Snowe was somehow cheated or betrayed or something.

    Tell me what in the bill that finally passed the Senate … without Snowe’s vote, btw … was really out of line with what she voted to approve out of Baucus finance committee?

    Pretty much … nothing.

    The Republican’s biggest disaster here is that many provisions in this bill will be very popular – and become more and more popular over time – and as noted already here, a lot of people are going to be looking at the landscape after all is done and realize that this isn’t anything like a full blown governmental takeover of the healthcare industry, and that’s not going to help the credibility of the people making that charge.

    The wise move – from the beginning, have a Snowe or someone else help bring the bill to the Senate Floor in the first place. Have a Republican co-sponsor of the House legislation. Spend the last few months selling that this is Romneycare … and not just Obamacare.

    The Republicans are going to be left with trying to keep the rhetoric pegged at 11 for another 7 months, while the country is accepting the bill as law and moving on to other things. It’s not going to make them look serious about governance.

  • COProgressive

    David wrote;
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November
    (1) It’s a good bet that conservatives are over-optimistic about November

    Yes, David, you’re right. There was a poll the other night that Tim Mak wrote about that said 69% of Independents were against the HCR bill. Well, by mid-summer 69% of everyone will wonder what all the Repuglican hypobole was about. Were is all the results of the dooms-day talk? Where is the “Apocalypse” that Boner and Cantor were talking about? Where is the “Takeover” of America’s healthcare? Where are the “Death Panels”? What the hell got the Repuggies panties in such a twist?

    I have United Healthcare now, and mid-summer I’ll have United Healthcare as my insurer. by mi-summer Americans will look around and wonder “What the hell was that all about?” Mid summer, when the Repuggies start beating the drum about those good-for-nothing Dems ramming the HCR bill down everyone neck it will be greeted with a resounding “Ho-Hum”!

    “The Republican Party has ceased to exist as a viable political party…….They are NOTHING!  NOTHING!  The biggest threat, maybe, to the Republican Party is that they actually see that (Brown’s win in Mass.) as an endorsement of their NOTHINGNESS!” – Joe Scarborough (R-FL) January 18th 2010

  • tomtom

    balconesfault makes a good point that there is nothing in the final bill that is so different from what Snowe voted for in committee.

    Snowe was out there hanging alone. I imagine she felt intense pressure to toe the line, and she did. Grassely was a similar story.

    There are some Republicans who did not want to go zero sum, but they did not call the shots.