Instead, the emotional core of opposition to reform was blatant fear-mongering, unconstrained either by the facts or by any sense of decency.
It wasn’t just the death panel smear. It was racial hate-mongering, like a piece in Investor’s Business Daily declaring that health reform is “affirmative action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin color.” It was wild claims about abortion funding. It was the insistence that there is something tyrannical about giving young working Americans the assurance that health care will be available when they need it, an assurance that older Americans have enjoyed ever since Lyndon Johnson — whom Mr. Gingrich considers a failed president — pushed Medicare through over the howls of conservatives.
And let’s be clear: the campaign of fear hasn’t been carried out by a radical fringe, unconnected to the Republican establishment. On the contrary, that establishment has been involved and approving all the way. Politicians like Sarah Palin — who was, let us remember, the G.O.P.’s vice-presidential candidate — eagerly spread the death panel lie, and supposedly reasonable, moderate politicians like Senator Chuck Grassley refused to say that it was untrue. On the eve of the big vote, Republican members of Congress warned that “freedom dies a little bit today” and accused Democrats of “totalitarian tactics,” which I believe means the process known as “voting.”
Without question, the campaign of fear was effective: health reform went from being highly popular to wide disapproval, although the numbers have been improving lately. But the question was, would it actually be enough to block reform?
And the answer is no. The Democrats have done it. The House has passed the Senate version of health reform, and an improved version will be achieved through reconciliation.
This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama, and a triumph for Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker. But it is also a victory for America’s soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. This time, fear struck out.
Author Archive | susie
I’d like to point out that in the middle of all the praise for Obama, we’re missing an obvious truth: It was Nancy Pelosi who dragged this bloodied carcass of a health bill across the finish line and got the job done.
I’ve had my problems with Speaker Pelosi (lack of BushCo accountability for war crimes is just one) but she believed in a broad bill when all the party pragmatists had given up. And even though it’s not the bill I wanted to see, it really is the beginning of something historic. And for that, Madame Speaker, I salute you:
The knock on Pelosi was simple: To anoint a “San Francisco liberal” as a party icon would simply affirm the caricature of Democratic leaders that Republicans had been peddling for years – to devastating effect. Better to pick her less strident, more pragmatic rival, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, their thinking went. But Pelosi had the votes and won what remains the longest leadership campaign in House history (more than three years of starts and stops) by a 118-95 count.That verdict led directly to Sunday night. Because the ideological ambition that separated Pelosi from Hoyer is probably what saved the concept of wholesale healthcare reform when it seemed destined for the trash heap just two months ago.
Pelosi, we have learned in recent days, was instrumental in prodding the White House to press ahead with its push for large-scale reform after January’s special Senate election in Massachusetts – even as Rahm Emanuel, once a House man himself, urged the president to radically pare back his vision. And it was Pelosi who then somehow struck a deal with the Senate and found a way to convince 219 of her fellow Democrats to vote “yes” on a bill they hated.
It’s impossible to know for sure how Hoyer, had he been the speaker, would have responded to Scott Brown’s Massachusetts triumph. But his political history shows him to be much more of an incrementalist than Pelosi. It’s hard to imagine his instincts would have been any different from Emanuel’s – and that Democrats, under a Speaker Hoyer, would on Sunday night have been able to boast of expanding coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans.
Fittingly, just minutes after the final vote, Hoyer himself hailed Pelosi as “the single most responsible person for this night’s success.”
The passage of healthcare reform is not just a triumph of Pelosi’s liberal idealism, though it is partly that. It’s just as much a triumph of her underappreciated legislative savvy – mastery, really. In the ’01 leadership race, Hoyer was supposed to be the skilled tactician. Pelosi was supposed to be the clueless ideologue. But as speaker, she’s adeptly mixed her idealism with the deft touch of a seasoned congressional insider.
You need look no further than the healthcare saga for confirmation of this. Who else could have pulled off what Pelosi just did? For more than a year, she carefully balanced the wildly disparate interests of her caucus’ various coalitions – the progressives who demanded a “robust” public option, the Blue Dogs who cared mainly about deficits, the pro-lifers who made abortion their make-or-break issue, and on and on. She gave away just enough to each group to keep reform alive – without sacrificing her own bottom line of near-universal coverage.
She also went to war with the Senate after the Massachusetts special election – and won, forcing that chamber’s leaders to embrace the reconciliation process they’d been shunning.
Oh well, McCain is facing a primary challenge from an even wackier wingnut, and has to descend to his level. (He only has to drop an inch or two.)
In other words, this healthcare bill is, as everything else, “good news for John McCain”!
WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain said Monday morning that Democrats have not heard the last of the health care debate, and said he was repulsed by “all this euphoria going on.”
Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” McCain, who was President Barack Obama’s GOP rival in the 2008 presidential campaign, said that “outside the Beltway, the American people are very angry. They don’t like it, and we’re going to repeal this.”
McCain, who is in a tough Republican primary fight in his home state, said the GOP “will challenge it every place we can,” and said there will be reprisals at the polls, in Congress and in the courts.
On the cusp of succeeding where numerous past congresses and administrations have failed, jubilant House Democrats voted 219-212 to approve legislation that would extend coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans, reduce deficits and ban insurance company practices such as denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions.
I was thinking tonight about when the House voted on the historic Clinton budget in 1993. The “Bart Stupak” holdout then was Marjorie Margolies Mezvinsky, a DLC-type “no new taxes” congresswoman from suburban Philadelphia who opposed the Clinton plan because it didn’t contain enough spending cuts:
During her campaign, she had promised not to raise taxes, and the budget proposed a hike in federal taxes, including a gasoline tax. On the day of the vote, she appeared on television and told her constituents that she was against the budget. Minutes before the vote, however, on August 5, 1993, President Clinton called to ask Margolies-Mezvinsky to support the measure. She told him that only if it was the deciding vote—in this case, the 218th yea—would she support the measure. “I wasn’t going to do it at 217. I wasn’t going to do it at 219. Only at 218, or I was voting against it,” she recalled.11 She also extracted a promise from Clinton that if she did have to vote for the budget package, that he would attend a conference in her district dedicated to reducing the budget deficit. He agreed (and later fulfilled the pledge). Nevertheless, Margolies-Mezvinsky told Clinton “I think I’m falling on a political sword on this one.” When she finally walked onto the House Floor to cast the decisive vote, passing the measure 218 to 216, Democrats cheered while Republicans jeered, “Goodbye, Marjorie!”12 She later recalled that “I knew at the time that changing my vote at the 11th hour may have been tantamount to political suicide.… [but] the vote would resolve itself into one simple question: Was my political future more important than the agenda the President had laid out for America?”13
Margolies-Mezvinsky’s vote, coming as it did after her specific promises, created wide resentment among her district constituents. “I ran into a wall of anger,” she recalled when she returned to her district throughout the fall of 1993. In 1994, the Republican National Committee targeted her and 14 other vulnerable House Democrats (many of them first-term women) who had voted for the Clinton budget. That fall Margolies-Mezvinsky again faced off against Jon Fox, who attacked her relentlessly for her vote. He won by a slim margin of 8,000 votes, with 49 percent to her 45 percent in a four-way race.
And there was exactly the same kind of hysteria brought to bear on this vote from the Republicans, many impassioned speeches about how the Clinton budget was going to “bankrupt the government.”
Of course, it didn’t. It gave us a balanced budget, and a surplus. But Republicans don’t like facts to get in the way of a good scary story.
Via John Kerry:
“As Ted Kennedy said, across the decades, in the best and the most discouraging hours, health care was the cause of his life. Tonight that cause becomes more than a dream, it becomes America’s commitment.
“This landmark moment belongs to President Barack Obama, to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the courageous members of the House, and to the colleagues he cherished in the Senate. Most of all, it belongs to America — and it is one of the rare legislative achievements that belongs to the ages.
“When Ted stood with Barack Obama in 2008, he said he had new hope that we would break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — would have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege. And now they do and from now on they will.
“In the last words he wrote, Ted said that ‘if you persevere, stick with it, work at it, you have a real opportunity to achieve something. Sure, there will be storms along the way. And you might not reach your goal right away. But if you do your best and keep a true compass, you’ll get there.’ Ted knew we would get here, and all of us who loved him and shared his hopes for America are deeply grateful.”
The dream will never die….
The conservatives are in deep mourning tonight over the passage of the healthcare reform bill. I have some empathy (not sympathy) for how bad they feel, considering how so many things the Bush administration did (starting with the bombing of Iraq civilians) made me sick to my stomach.
And like most liberals, I’m aware of the bill’s many weaknesses. But I also know how craven politicians are, and I’m convinced they will react to constituent complaints. (Because they like to keep their jobs.) That’s why I predict the 2020 version of this bill will be a helluva lot better than this one. The fight to fix it is just beginning.
In the meantime, here are some representative conservative comments on Twitter:
The DEMS have brought shame on America Abort the DEMS NOW
PLEASE #killthebill for my 12 year old who wants 2b a doctor! With Obamacare she might choose 2b a vet instead!
Paul Ryan just gave the best speech of the night. The guy is a freaking rockstar
Re: pelosi… Is this bitch for real? I bet she groups herself with Lincoln, MLK, Jesus
healthcare is not a right Nazi Pelozi!!
PIMP NANCY IS PASSING THIS BILL BY COMMITING BRIBES THAT SHE FINANCED WITH MY MONEY!!!! WTF!!!
And no, I don’t thank @BarackObama. Except for RUINING my country.
We are selling our heritage for the lies and empty promises of a handful of radical liberals.
I have one word to describe this legislation “tyranny”.
Monday take your money out of the banks
N. PigLosi looks like a “babbling idiot” who uses random Hand Gestures like a swinging monkey
Nancy milking the pre-existing conditions issue. Extend competition across state lines and watch pre existing conditions go away.
You are witnessing the death of the Democratic party
Good Job Nancy, Chairman Mao would be proud.
NOT MY PRESIDENT! NOT MY CONGRESS! NOT MY GOVERNMENT!!!
I’m not sympathetic to Pelosi’s old guy in Michigan 2embarrassed 2ask his kids 4help. He doesn’t mind stealing from mine!
March 21. Happy dependence day!
Listening to Pelosi live makes me want to puke. How could anybody of right mind believe a single word? Wicked witch.
This vote tonight is nothing short of a declaration of war by Dems & their freeloader base against responsible self-reliant Americans.
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 …
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 …
We followed the most radical voices in the party and the movement, and they led us to abject and irreversible defeat.
Will they learn? Nah. Now Frum will be on the shitlist.
Kevin Baker in this month’s Harpers (subscription only):
And so we arrive at the present moment, in which the people are not asked to do anything. The fine words and able presentation of Obama, whether delivered at West Point or on Wall Street or in the well of the House of Representatives, obscure the fact that they are subtle parodies of a century of liberal argument. Whereas the Populists’ soapbox lecturers or the Progressives’ magazine exposés or FDR in his radio “fireside chats” explained the way of the world to the people and argued for why and how that way must change, Obama—like most Democratic leaders—concedes that the way of the world is wrong but tells us why it must stay that way because, some time in the past, powerful interests decreed it so.
Thus we are told that single-payer or a public option may be a good idea but that private insurance companies are simply too well–ensconced for reform. Afghanistan may be hopeless, but we have already committed to it. The power of the people is never activated, nothing much is asked or required of us, even as thugs overrun congressional town-hall meetings.
Instead, the party that claims to represent all progressive interests in this country proceeds with its impervious, self-interested agenda. The administration’s stated priorities for the near future are to balance the budget before a deep recession has abated and to commit the nation to a long-running war in a dysfunctional Asian country that we neither understand nor care about—thereby promising to repeat, simultaneously, the two worst mistakes made by liberal presidents in the past seventy-five years. As for the long term, the White House will form a commission bent on cutting “entitlements,” such as Social Security and Medicare, that are the bedrock of retired Americans’ prosperity.
Obama is an adroit politician and, like the last adroit Democratic president, he may be able to secure another term in the White House. Perhaps he will even be able to keep a Democratic majority in Congress, though this now seems unlikelier by the day. But to treat this as a triumph of activism is to say that a prisoner retains free will because he is able to stay in his cell. Obama, the congressional Democrats, and most of our politicians at every level now maneuver within political confines defined by financial and military interests they cannot conceive of challenging. Perversely, our ruling elite today is one of unparalleled diversity, and includes unprecedented numbers of women, minorities, and individuals who have worked their way up to power on brains and determination alone, usually without having inherited connections or wealth. It is a meritocracy much like the one long envisioned by many liberal reformers—and it has decided to capitulate, reap its considerable rewards, and draw the ladder up after it.
Who will challenge this shining fortress upon a hill? The right-wing pseudo-Populists who have devoured the Republican Party may win some victories in the short run. But the Tea Party and its fellow travelers have already become a jointly owned subsidiary of News Corp. and the likes of Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks lobby. (To understand just how fraudulent the movement is, one need only look at the $549-a-seat price tag for tickets to its first convention, and the $100,000 speaker’s fee paid to Sarah Palin. So much for box socials and sing-alongs.) Right-wing Populism is anyway inherently contradictory, a demand that the state recede to a size that will leave its citizens utterly defenseless against the gigantic forces at loose in the world today. No one is going to abolish the Federal Reserve, or the income tax, or Social Security and Medicare; if they did, small businesses and working people would be trampled beneath the corporate entities bent on their exploitation. The counter-Populism of the right is the prisoner’s last, despairing option, to move from learned helplessness to suicide.
Coming to power when he did, with the political skills and the majorities he possesses, Barack Obama squandered an almost unprecedented opportunity. But it is increasingly clear that he never intended to challenge the power structure he had so skillfully penetrated. With the recent Supreme Court ruling that corporations are, once more, people, American democracy has snapped shut again—the great, forced opening of the past 130 years has ended. There is no longer any meaningful reformist impulse left in our politics. The idea of modern American liberalism has vanished among our elite, and simply voting for one man or supporting one of the two major parties will not restore it. The work will have to be done from the ground up, and it will have to be done by us.
Waiting to see what Obama promised Stupak in his executive order….
Yes, Democrats are fighting to pass a Republican version of health care reform. Wheee! E.J. Dionne:
Here is the ultimate paradox of the Great Health Care Showdown: Congress will divide along partisan lines to pass a Republican version of health care reform, and Republicans will vote against it. Yes, Democrats have rallied behind a bill that Republicans or at least large numbers of them should love. It is built on a series of principles that Republicans espoused for years.
[. . .] Republicans always say they are against socialized medicine. Not only is this bill nothing like a single-payer health system along Canadian or British lines. It doesn’t even include the public option that would have allowed people voluntarily to buy their insurance from the government. The single-payer idea fell by the wayside long ago, and supporters of the public option sadly, from my point of view, lost out last December. [. . .] Democrats, including President Obama, are so anxious to get everyone health insurance that they are more than willing to try a market-based system and hope it works. It’s a shame the Republicans can no longer take yes for an answer.