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Liberals Still Fighting for Reconciliation on Health Care

Why Democrats would be politically smart not to pass Obamacare.

3:21 PM, Feb 12, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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Nancy Pelosi is still fighting to pass the health care bill through reconciliation. Nate Silver makes the political case for why the Democrats should follow her lead:

The near-term political case for passing health care, again, is not that the bill is magically going to become popular over the next eight months. Rather, it's that the Democrats are already in such bad shape among independents -- partly, no doubt, because of their bungled handling of what has become an unpopular health care bill -- that they may as well go ahead and give their base something to get excited about. Seriously, the Democrats' approval rating among independents in 19 percent. What more do they have to lose?

Here's the problem with this analysis: "The base" was as excited as it was or is ever going to be about the health care bill in the Massachusetts special election. The stakes were extremely high, and the choice was binary. Defeat Scott Brown and health care passes; elect Scott Brown and it dies. As you may recall, Scott Brown won.

But, the liberal bloggers say, Republicans are already going to run against your vote on health care, so why not actually pass it if you've already paid the price? To see the error in that argument, take this hypothetical from David Brooks a step further.

Let’s say we had a year-long debate in the run-up to the Iraq war. Let’s say at the end of that debate, 33 percent of Americans thought it was a good idea to invade Iraq, 46 percent thought it was a bad idea and the rest weren’t sure. Then let’s say that there were a bunch of elections in places like New Jersey and Virginia in the middle of this debate and George Bush’s party lost them all badly. Let’s say at the end of this debate there was a senate race in Wyoming in which a Democratic candidate made preventing the war a central plank in his campaign. Let’s say Bush went out to Wyoming and told voters they had to support the Republican to save the Iraq invasion. And let’s say the Democrat still went on to win that Wyoming Senate seat by more than 5 percentage points.

And then imagine that Bush decided not to invade. Would voters want to punish Republicans for pushing for an unpopular war? Sure, but they wouldn't be nearly as motivated as they would be if there was actually a war going on. Same with health care: If the Democrats don't enact their $2.5 trillion, tax-raising, abortion-funding bill, voters aren't going to turn out in November to kill something that is already dead.

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