[Posted by Karl]
The US Senate is set to begin debate today on the Democrats’ attempted takeover of the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare system, and the gap between disapproval and approval of ObamaCare has never been bigger.
Nevertheless, the Left would like to jam this through in 14 working days or less, lest the debate slip into an election year and the numbers deteriorate even further. The Democratic logic — such as it is — is that Democrats need to pass a bill to keep their base from deserting them. Nate Silver is left arguing that failure is the worst of both worlds. The Daily Kos looks at its weekly tracking poll, showing that Republicans and Independents are much more energized about voting in 2010, and concludes that “passing legitimate health care reform [is] an absolute political necessity for Democrats.” Steve Benen demands the full “too much, too soon agenda” (missing only “cap and tax,” though that may have just been an oversight on his part).
None of these great thinkers addresses the probability that stomping on the gas as Dems hurtle over the cliff is likely to be most deadly to the swing votes they need to pass ObamaCare and the rest. Since they seem intent on ignoring Sean Trende’s regression analysis of the 1994 midterms, perhaps they may want to look at analysis by Brendan Nyhan (no member of the VRWC he), showing that passing major legislation has little effect on presidential approval. As Senatorial opinion on ObamaCare seems to be following presidential approval, Nyhan’s analysis ought to leave Senators — and the Left generally — asking whether passing an increasingly unpopular package of tax hikes and Medicare cuts pays any political dividends.
If they think that people will grow to love ObamaCare, they may want to look at Massachusetts, where only 32% of voters think the same basic scheme has been a success, only 20% say reform has made healthcare more affordable (31% say the opposite) and only 16% say it has improved the quality of care (24% say it has gotten worse). Any Democrats from someplace less Blue than the Bay State may want to think about how those numbers will look once the state starts rationing care in earnest, and whether they are physically fit enough to sprint away from angry mobs.
Democrats may try to shut all of that out of their minds. What they will not be able to avoid is the inevitable effects of their own debate. Unlike the House vote — or even the vote to proceed in the Senate — this debate involves actual substantive amendments (beyond the issue of abortion, which the Democrats permitted as a necessity in the House, but which they are working hard to drop now). At some point, Senate Dems have to figure out if they can find a bottom line that can be reconciled with the House bill — a difficult job in itself. But the votes on these amendments are likely to leave Senators — and the public — at least as unhappy as they are now. There will be losers on abortion, taxes, illegal immigration, Medicare cuts, doctor payments, etc. So far, the Democratic leadership has been able to lean on moderates with the argument that their votes are just “moving the process forward.” We are now reaching the point where the illusion that these bills are going to be improved somehow vanishes. That is the point where things will really get ugly.