Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Democrats' lack of confidence in their own bill

If the Democrats had confidence that they were crafting a great bill on health care that would truly have the support of the American people, they wouldn't be so rushed to try to finish the thing, come Hell or high water, before the calendar shifts to an election year. They would be proud to campaign on their support for their historic bill and to make the election a referendum on their ideas. The fact that they're rushing everything through in back rooms tells us something.

Rich Lowry points to their lack of confidence in their own bill as he terms the Democrats new "impatient style" in politics.
This isn't the behavior of a self-confident majority secure in the knowledge that history is on its side. In fact, it's panicked, weaselly and willfully careless. The historian Richard Hofstadter wrote of the "paranoid style" in American politics. Obama Democrats have perfected the "impatient style." Reid's latest exertions fit the pattern of a headlong rush to a slapdash social democracy, justified by whatever arguments happen to be at hand and effected by whatever means necessary.

Reid acts like a hunted man for good reason. The RealClearPolitics average has 53.5 percent opposed to the Democrats' health-care plan and 37.7 favoring it. A CNN poll last week found the public against it by nearly 2-1. The numbers have gotten worse as the Senate has debated the measure in all its varied splendor -- the tax hikes, the Medicare cuts, the abortion funding. Reid is like the tormented narrator of Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum": With the clock's every tick, a vast blade promising doom swings nearer.

It's astonishing that with 60 votes in the Senate and an 81-vote majority in the House, Democrats have still managed to push the health bill to the point of failure. When significant headwinds developed in August, the prudent play was obvious -- scale the bill back, pick off a few Republicans and settle for 3/4 or less of a loaf. They couldn't bring themselves to do it, preferring to work with duct tape and baling wire to try to hold together an unwieldy bill that isn't paid for and doesn't reduce costs as advertised.

Reid's struggle getting to 60 makes some liberals fear that America has become "ungovernable." In other words, it isn't putty in their grasping little hands. Unfortunately for them, the Founders created a balky system resistant to precipitate change. It is designed to frustrate ideologically drunken (and perhaps temporary) majorities insistent on passing sweeping, unpopular legislation. Reid's difficulty is exactly the way James Madison would have wanted it.

If the health-care bill is necessary and wise, it will withstand a temporary defeat. Democrats could campaign on it around the country next year. They could rebuild public support, turning around the polls. They could enhance their majority in the House and the Senate, bringing more Democrats to Washington determined to pass it. That's how you usually pass historic legislation in a system naturally inclined to the status quo.
But they know that they don't have public support and so are vainly hoping that they can pass this monstrosity and that Americans will forget about the stimulus porkapalooza, the attempt to pass cap and trade, and this dreadful health care Frankenstein of a bill by November of 2010. Do they really think that American memories are that short?