The natives are getting restless in the Daily-Kos, Huffington Post, Bernie Sanders socialist wing of the Democratic Party. It's fascinating to watch, particularly given the general (and generally accurate) view among conservatives and libertarians that the leadership of the Democratic Party is very far left.
It turns out they're not far left enough for those named above, as well as for former DNC Chairman Howard Dean.
When I first heard reports that Dean and "Kos" were calling for the Senate to scrap its current bill, my gut instinct was that it was a smart move to try to protect the Democratic majority in the House (and maybe even in the Senate) in the 2010 elections.
I was wrong. The leftist fringe of the Democratic Party doesn't like the Senate bill because it does not move far enough toward government control of health care nor toward putting private health insurers out of business.
Watching the health care debate is a sickening roller-coaster for those who make the mistake, as I do, of getting deeply involved with politics. One day the bill looks dead, the next day Harry Reid says (lies about) having reached a "compromise". One day it looks like Ben Nelson is on board and that they're putting hundreds of millions of dollars for military bases in Nebraska in the bill to pay him off, and the next day he says his vote is not for sale. One day Joe Lieberman says he won't support a bill with either a "public option" or an expansion of Medicare. The next day that stuff is reportedly out of the bill, but Bernie Sanders says he might not support the bill without at least one of those things.
If Howard Dean gets his way and the health care bill fails, either by not getting out of the Senate (the most likely way that happens is if they leave out a prohibition against public funding of abortion, causing Ben Nelson to refuse to vote for cloture) or by a revolt of the Democrats' most liberal members in the House if they get a conference report to vote on that has no "public option".
As I said, it's a roller-coaster. You'd have to be quite a gambler to bet more than a beer on what the outcome will be.
But the Democratic overreach here is so enormous that it is probably insurmountable by the next election. They have, in the way that political naifs like Barack Obama almost always do, painted themselves into a no-win corner.
If health care fails to pass now, Obama's signature issue will be dead for many years to come and Obama's political capital will be eroded even faster than it's already been disappearing on him. He could become the most obvious one-term president at this stage in a presidency that I am aware of; he could become a lame duck after one year in office.
If health care does pass now, the next 11 months will be taken up with a relentless barrage of attacks on the legislation, on how it raises taxes, raises health insurance premiums, pays off insurers and drug companies, and accomplishes nothing that the American public cares about. That is to say, it aims to increase the number of people covered by insurance, something voters care very little about, at the expense of passing legislation which would increase private sector competition, lessen the distance between providers and consumers of medical care thus allowing true market forces to discipline medical care price inflation, and generally "bend the cost curve down" -- which is precisely what the public want.
I don't envy the Democratic leadership now. They made the cardinal mistake which I have written frequently about on these pages: They took their election victory as meaning that they had a broad mandate for anti-captialist, anti-liberty policies when the real meaning of the election was that people were sick of George W. Bush and Republicans who acted like Democrats.
In any case, don't expect the roller coaster ride to end very soon. But when it does end, I expect the end will be sudden and dramatic.
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