In the wake of Scott Brown's Senate win, when the whole world (including liberals like Barney Frank and Anthony Weiner) pronounced health care reform dead, I predicted that it would live:
The fundamentals of the situation remain exactly the same. Most Americans oppose health care reform. However, a significant chunk -- enough to form a sizable majority when combined with supporters -- oppose it because it doesn't go far enough. Which is to say, the Democrats' position commands the center in a polarized atmosphere. Moreover, both chambers have already voted for a bill and set themselves up to be attacked for tax hikes, Medicare cuts and all the rest. The only chance the Democrats have to change that perception is to pass the bill, so that it can be explained in the context of success rather than as a tar baby subjected to endless criticism. If they let it die, they not only keep all the baggage of their votes, but they add a general stench of failure and profound demoralization of the base to their burdens. That would be a recipe not just to lose the House but to lose 50, 60, 80 seats.
Here is what I think will happen. The shock and panic will play itself out over a few days. Then the Democrats will assess the situation and realize that letting health care die represents their worst possible option. And then they will make a deal to pass the Senate bill through the House. I am not positive this will happen, but it's my bet, because elected officials at the national level, dim though they can be, are usually shrewd enough to recognize their political self-interest.
I ventured this opinion and stuck with it not in some attempt to buck up Democrats -- that's not my job -- but because I thought it was correct. The fundamentals of the Democrats' political interest and policy goals, along with the legislative path available, made this the most likely outcome. Lots of conservatives mocked me. The gracious thing to do would be to let the mockery be forgotten. But grace is not my strong suit. So here is a greatest hits collection of the Chait-is-delusional chorus.
Few liberals have been more insistent on the inevitability of ObamaCare than The New Republic editor Jonathan Chait (along with his TNR colleague Jonathan Cohn). He is stubbornly clinging to the notion that ObamaCare can be a done deal despite the results of yesterday's election in Massachussets giving Republicans the 41st vote to block it in the Senate. To give you an idea of how far Chait has gone off the deep end, take a look at his money quote on the topic of liberal Democrats who consider the Mass. election a referendum on ObamaCare in his ironically titled column, Mass Hysteria
Here is more of Chait's angry denial of electoral reality...
Is Anger Management therapy covered by ObamaCare?
Last week, Jonathan Chait responded to me, arguing that Democrats have already taken all the political hit they're going to from passing health care, since each house voted for a bill. Of course, if Chait is right, then Democrats should probably do it--at least, if you think that democracy should put zero weight on the actual opinions of those slack-jawed rubes in the electorate. But this logic seems highly questionable to me.
ObamaCare, while not yet dead, is in critical and perhaps terminal condition. And the damaging effects it has had on the president and the Democratic party is beyond serious dispute. Charlie Cook of National Journal put it this way:
Honorable and intelligent people can disagree over the substance and details of what President Obama and congressional Democrats are trying to do on health care reform and climate change. But nearly a year after Obama’s inauguration, judging by where the Democrats stand today, it’s clear that they have made a colossal miscalculation.
Clear, that is, to everyone but Jonathan Chait. He is in the uncomfortable position of having to explain how the Obama presidency and liberalism have gone off the rails in the past year, a year devoted to trying to pass massively unpopular health-care legislation championed by people like Chait. Rather than coming to grips with reality, though, Chait has opted for self-delusion.
As this blog has noted before, if the health care bill isn’t completely dead, its prognosis is still dire. It now looks as though the administration is getting ready to quietly pull the plug. And fans of the effort seem to be stuck between phases three and four of the Kubler-Ross model: bargaining and depression. ...
This has fans of Democratic health plans like the New Republic’s Jonathan Chait reaching for their antacids...
Chait, though, is apparently not a person who gives up easily on his dreams. He concludes by trying to argue that Emanuel “is not necessarily speaking for the administration.”
It's a Chait Accompli! Megan McArdle provides a useful antidote to the premature anti-gloating of Klein's fellow JournoLister Jon Chait
Jonathan Chait is enjoying what you might call "pre-schadenfreude" about health care's apparent revival. One can understand the urge, given how little opportunity liberals have had to actually revel in GOP despair over the past few weeks. But I think it's more wishful than warranted. ...
I'm not seeing it. And neither are any of the people I know who opposed the bill. They're worried, but at about the level of worry you give toe fungus, not stage-three metastatic cancer. Mr Chait is going to have to wait a little while for his freak-out. Unless that's one hell of a health summit Obama puts on, he'll probably have to wait forever.
I wasn't the only person whose political analysis was driven by the fundamentals of the situation rather than the emotion of the moment. I am not even the only person named Jonathan whose political analysis was driven by the fundamentals of the situation rather than the emotion of the moment. (Jonathans Cohn and Bernstein consistently argued along similar lines.) But I am the only one who adorned his predictions with a photo of a cute little blond girl in a hat. (That's Pollyanna.) So I believe this earns me extra credit.