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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Bloggers See Brighter Prospects for Health Care Reform

As President Obama prepares to address to a joint session of Congress on health care reform a week from today, a couple of veteran bloggers see cause for optimism. Writing in Mother Jones, Kevin Drum reasons it out thusly in his post, “Optimistic About Health Care“:

…Republicans have been given every chance and have obviously decided to obstruct rather then work on a bipartisan compromise. So the Blue Dogs and centrist Dems feel like they’re covered on that angle. What’s more, the townhalls have shown them what they’re up against: if they don’t pass a bill — if they cave in to the loons and demonstrate that their convictions were weak all along — they’re probably doomed next year. Their only hope is to pass a bill and look like winners who get things done.
When you’re up against a wall, you do what you have to do. Politically, Dems have to succeed, and at this point they’ve all had their noses rubbed in the fact that the only way to succeed is to stick together. What’s more, Barack Obama has a pretty good knack for coming in after everyone else has talked themselves out and cutting through the haze to remind people of what’s fundamentally at stake. If he can do that again, and if he has the entire Democratic caucus supporting him, they can win this battle.
Nearly every Democrat now has a stake in seeing healthcare reform pass. The devil, of course, is in the word “nearly,” but at this point even Ben Nelson probably doesn’t want to be the guy to sink a deal if he’s literally the 60th vote to get something done. It’s usually possible to pass a bill when everyone’s incentives are aligned, and right now they’re about as aligned as they can be. That’s why, on most days, I remain optimistic.

And if the Dems have to skirt the cloture route, the reconciliation process is unlikely to draw prolonged criticism, according to Jonathan Singer’s MyDD post, “GOP for Reconciliation Before it Was Against It.” Singer nails the Republicans for their hypocricy in whining about Democrats using reconciliation, noting that they, lead by Sen Gregg no less, used it to try and open the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and to pass Bush’s massive tax cuts. Then Singer adds:

This is one of those fake controversies by the Beltway, of the Beltway and for the Beltway… The American people simply do not care as much about these process debates as do those in the establishment media. If healthcare reform gets passed, voters aren’t going to harp on exactly how many votes it took — a 60-vote supermajority or a 51-vote regular majority — they are going to focus on what the new legislation means to them and to their country.

Singer is exactly right. It’s hard to imagine many voters saying “Those dirty Democrats passed reform with a majority vote. That’s outrageous.” The cautious optimism of Singer and Drum seems warranted — especially if the President can cut through the fear and gloom with a bold message based on hope and reason.

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