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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Empty Threats

As the political world prepares for what appears to be Last Stop Week on health reform, conservatives seem astonished that the president and congressional Democrats are pushing ahead for final enactment of legislation passed by both Houses last year, intead of folding their hands and fleeing in terror. They are particularly incensed that Democrats aren’t being shamed or frightened by the prospect of–gasp!–a poisoned partisan atmosphere in Washington. Here’s how Julie Mason of the conservative Washington Examiner presents the threat:

The White House claims it’s above worrying about the politics of health care — they just want a bill passed this week.
Good thing, because politics in Washington could become a lot more ferocious and partisan, whether their plan flies or not.
“If they pull off this crazy scenario they are putting together, they are going to destroy a lot of the comity in the House,” said Brian Darling, a congressional expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “Even in the current, highly partisan atmosphere, it can get a lot worse.”

Sorry, Brian & Julie, you are wrong. It really can’t get much worse. And for that, conservatives have no one but themselves to blame, if they actually even care.
Just to cite the most obvious example, there were many moments over the last year when the White House and congressional Democrats might well have significantly changed health reform legislation in exchange for just a few Republican votes (in fact, they made unilateral concessions in the Senate again and again simply to keep the possibility open). And after the loss of the 60th Senate vote last month, had Republicans offered any suggestions other than complete repudiation of the bills already enacted by a majority in the House and a supermajority in the Senate, Democrats would have snapped them up instantly. But in an atmosphere where long-held Republican ideas on health reform like the individual mandate were suddenly being denounced as socialist or even fascist by the Right, no serious offers were forthcoming, unless you think such “ideas” as sweeping away state regulation of health insurers via mandatory interestate sales is “serious.”
So let’s not hear any empty threats about Republican “partisanship.” For better or worse, the GOP made a clear and collective decision last year to take partisanship to the max on every conceivable front, and they have been quite successful with that strategy in a nilhilistic sort of way. But there are no arrows left in that particular quiver.

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