Why the Health Care Bill Will Destroy the Conservative Movement | TPMCafe: highlight the long-term politics. Which is that it will destroy the conservative movement (a point Bill Kristol made in 1993 when he argued for killing health reform at all costs). Why? Because trying to repeal it will tear the movement apart and it will be the platform to destroy conservative anti-tax politics.
The TeaParty rightwing base will demand repeal, but where to start?
Demand that those with preexisting conditions be denied coverage at the whim of insurance companies? That's a nonstarter.
How about going after the individual mandate? Well, if you leave the ban on denial due to preexisting conditions in place, such a campaign will pit the monied health care business interests in the GOP against the anti-mandate rightwing, a lovely chance for an intramural political car wreck.
How about wiping out the funding for Medicaid expansions? Well, that might be popular with the anti-poor Grinch rightwing, but aside from likely being unpopular with the public, such an attack on Medicaid funding will pit the D.C. wing of the rightwing against their state government counterparts. For years, the federal government will be paying 100% of that Medicaid expansion, disproportionately to red states with currently the worst Medicaid coverage, so going after Medicaid funds will mean taking dollars away from GOP governors and statehouses. A few might go along on principle but most will protect every dollar coming to their states, regardless of purpose.
How about going after the subsidies to working Americans up to 400% of the poverty line? Now, there's political suicide since that's taking money directly out of the pockets of swing voters across the country.
The Death of Conservatism: In fact, those subsidies, however inadequate, no- precisely because they are inadequate, will be the death of conservative anti-tax politics. The standard ploy of anti-tax politics had always been massive tax cuts for the wealthy combined with a token cut for the middle class. But with so many middle class families depending on monetary subsidies from the feds for health care, such token tax cuts will pale in comparison. In fact, progressives will easily be able to trump tax cut politics with promises of increased health care subsidies -- invariably more valuable to those families and cheaper to deliver since it won't need to be attached to massive cuts for the the wealthy.
As Bill Kristol said way back in 1993 when he urged conservatives to kill health care by any means necessary, successful passage of health care reform in almost any form would be the death knell for conservatism:
It will relegitimize middle-class dependence for "security" on government spending and regulation. It will revive the reputation of the party that spends and regulates, the Democrats, as the generous protector of middle-class interests. And it will at the same time strike a punishing blow against Republican claims to defend the middle class by restraining government.
Because the health care bill will be implemented so slowly, we could well see some political attacks and losses by Democrats in a few election cycles, but unlikely enough to create the political consensus to repeal significant parts of the health care bill, precisely because of the dynamics above. If anything, demands for more action are just as likely to strengthen the progressive hand to increase affordability or enact some form of the public option -- especially since such financial changes to the bill could potentially be driven by majority vote through reconciliation in future years.
You have some bloggers treating the health care bill as a sell-out to the rightwing and many on the Right treating it as the slipperly slope to socialism. While the latter is probably a bit far, I actually side more with the political analysis of the right; while progressives didn't get as much as they wanted, they got enough to put in place a dynamic that will be almost impossible for the right to reverse. The working middle class will have a clear monetary stake in federal spending each year and participation in the broader welfare state. That reality will profoundly change both political rhetoric and budgetary politics in ways in which the modern conservative movement can not survive.
There will be a few stormy years to come but in two decades, this week's votes in the Senate I predict will come to be seen as a turning point in American history and the cementing of progressive power for decades to come.