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January 20, 2010

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One interesting comment I've seen lately is that GLBT issues should've been the canary in the coal mine. I had an interesting talk with Tobias Wolff today; he was Obama's LGBT campaign director, and he's been a big advocate of repealing DADT for years.

Yet nobody in the administration is talking to him, or the main LGBT groups, about repealing DADT, despite support from 2/3-4/5 of the nation. Why? Because Senators are worried about the backlash.

Now yes, far fewer people care strongly about this issue than health care. But In 2009, I think it gets far fewer people riled up. Same with something like ENDA. Yet again, the Senate (and maybe the House) don't have the votes for it.

Is there any reason to assume that the Senators really want significant health care reform, and weren't just supporting it for being politically popular? I have a hard time not drawing that conclusion.

The ball right now is in the House on insurance reform, and the data from there doesn't quite support your conclusion. Frex, initial reports show House liberals as the problem, not the Blue Dogs.

That said, I share your null hypothesis about the people we elected. There's an interesting link in my response to Bernard's question in the last post. Here it is again. It's some sad commentary by a Senate staffer about the mindset of elected Democrats.

One "tell" from the Administration will be DADT. I can sympathize with the fear that taking it on might have derailed health reform ... but we are either going to get health reform on a House vote right quick or we not going to get it at all.

That should, if the Administration is as savvy as I used to think, point in the direction of dumping DADT immediately. You can't get the Tea Party people more angry, but you can give your own base reason to believe that electing you makes a difference.

We shall see. Either way, this is the end of the center-right presidency that we've seen.

The irritating thing is that we really do have a center-right administration here.

Countercyclical fiscal policy, insurance reform, and the internalization of an environmental externality generated by CO2 are market-friendly attempts to address pressing problems. E.g., center-right policies.

Consider how Regina Herzlinger came out in favor of a plan pretty much like the one the Senate passed.

For real center-leftism, we could have Danish car taxes, French wealth taxes, Dutch health care, Canadian marriage laws, British gun regulation, and Finnish military service.

Instead we got Democrats running away from an insurance reform plan whose outline was designed by conservative Republicans, terrified of getting near anything that smacks of teh gay, small ball on terrorist trials, and cutting down the stimulus package for no understandable economic reason at all. (Zero bound! Agh!) It would make sense if the Democrats were to the right of the center-right, but they're not.

So what are they? McArdlists?

Gah. We need another center-rightist to comment. Bernard?

I just wrote Michael Capuano. Some of you out there might want to consider writing your representatives, as well.

We'll see. I am curious how serious Snowe was about health care reform (since she basically now has everything she wanted), and how much she was stringing the Dems along.

Ah well. On a cheery note, at least for me: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_t6rV3U9ZEHM/S1dfES3aT0I/AAAAAAAAowE/Z1V737UEXZM/s1600-h/CindyMcCain.jpg

When Senator McCain's wife is posing for gay marriage, the times they are a changing.

I can't imagine Snowe coming off her opposition. I don't know if she was stringing democrats along the whole time, exactly, but it seems like she came to the conclusion at some point that the politcs were paramount, and she didn't want to buck the party. Not sure why; hard to imagine a primary challenge from the Right would scare here a whole lot in Maine, but oh well. I've seen some people say that Obama should scale down his goals, and shoot for a law barring the exclusion of people with pre-existing medical conditions and tort reform. Aside from the fact that the pre-existing conditions law won't work without a mandate (or so they say), I don't see why anyone would expect the right, having scored a huge victory, to deal with Obama on anything that allows him to claim a HCR victory, tame though it may be. I mean if they can't get Snowe after giving her everything she asked her, how do they expect to win over Inhofe?

RE DADT, what was the bet that was made here a few months ago?

The bet was more recent than that, and it won't come due until November 2012. Although I feel bad about making it, considering, and here offer a GOJF card.

If the Democrats can't get the House to just vote through the Senate bill, then they do not deserve to hold a Congressional majority. Snowe honestly isn't relevant right now; the idiot House Democrats are.

As is our President's remarkable lack of persuasive power regarding said House Democrats. Perhaps I will be proven wrong in the next few days. I have been wrong before (as in the GOP's ability to get behind a putatively liberal Republican) and it would be very nice for the country for me to be wrong again.

Good side to being right, if I turn out to be right? No more time and money spent on campaigns! Hoo-ah.

Noel, while I'm touched that you included me in the grouping "center-right", I'll decline to make general comments. We've been getting along just fine, lately. :^)

I do agree that the Admin has been avoiding minor irritants like DADT for what amounts to tactical, or perhaps operational-level, reasons. The fear was that putting more pressure on the Blue Dogs would just mean fewer Blue Dogs in 12 months and even less chance of passing anything. I also agree that if HCR is dead, the necessity to protect that Blue Dog buffer lessens in comparison to the need to toss the rest of the party a bone or two. And if so, I'd personally be happy to see something as dumb as DADT go.

At first sight, it does seem persuasive to tell the House Democrats "Look, you have *already* voted for health care reform. You can't lose any more votes by voting for it again. Or do you think anyone is going to be convinced by your saying 'I voted against health care reform after I voted for it?'"

The problem, however, is this: HCR passed the House by the narrowest of margins and only after the Stupak amendment on abortion was adopted. There are undoubtedly some Democrats in the House who just will not vote for the Senate bill because it has no Stupak amendment. I don't know how many, but even a handful would be enough to sink the bill--even apart from possible defections by liberals who weren't even happy about the House bill and who like the Senate one even less.

So to counterbalance these defections you need some Blue Dogs who voted against the original House bill but *if not for the Massachusetts election* would have been open to the Senate one because it lacked a public option. But it is precisely these congressmen who by voting against the Seante bill can now say "I *consistently* opposed Obamacare in all its versions" if they think it is politically advantageous to do so--and after Brown's election, many of them do no doubt (rightly or wrongly) so think...

Bernard, I was just wondering if the Administration seems as center-right to you as it does to me.

Hi David! Great analysis. Any numbers on the vote counts?

"Bernard, I was just wondering if the Administration seems as center-right to you as it does to me."

Hmmnn. I figured they were going to be forced into taking a very centrist route by circumstance. I'll admit that in some respects they've outperformed that standard, and they haven't been particularly good friends to the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

It all depends, though. The whole left-right thing buries so much that I have difficulty at time pinning a given policy down as one or the other. i.e. Are taxes "right wing"? If not, why's Greg Mankiw so hot on Pigovian carbon taxes rather than the "market friendly" cap & trade option? And the whole DOMA thing confuses me, since it leaves me looking far more "lefty" than recent electoral experience indicates the rest of the country's center of mass is (on that dimension, anyway.)

Noel: "Any numbers on the vote counts?"

Well, 64 House Democrats voted for the Stupak Amendment. We are talking about one-fourth of the entire House Demcoratic Caucus.

I don't know offhand just how many of them voted for the final bill, but it must have been a substantial number, because the final bill passed with 219 Democratic votes (and one Republican) and there were 258 Democrats in the House. So it is mathematically impossible for the bill to have passed as it did unless at least 25 pro-Stupak Democrats voted for it (I'm sure the actual number is higher because IIRC at least a few anti-Stupak Democrats voted against the bill.) If even a handful of them reject the Senate bill, the bill cannot pass the House unless their votes are somehow counterbalanced. (And that is not even counting those anti-Stupak liberal Democrats who voted for the House bill but can't stand the Senate bill. Just getting all of them not to jump ship is a formidable challenge in itself.)

One thing to keep in mind --- and what makes this whole thing so nuts --- is that nobody seems to be talking about abortion. Word is that the liberals have bolted.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Senate bill isn't exactly abortion-friendly. And the part that is --- federal funding --- is perfect for reconciliation. We pass the goddamned bill on a promise to toss in a more Stupakian plank in a reconciliation bill. Poof, done.

In other words, abortion does not seem to be the killer issue.

And if it were ... well, Democrats have just proven that they can't govern. Neither can Republicans, of course. But that seems to be a major problem for the country.

Am I missing something, David? Your analyses are spot-on, so I'd like to know if I'm wrong. Right now, the fact that the abortion dog isn't barking seems to indicate that it isn't the sticking point; rather a general panic about the perceived unpopularity of insurance reform is the problem.

Freeze??? Ugh. So, not just Congress. WTF???

I never felt this during the worst moments in the campaign or at any point since he's been in office, but that feels like a panic move. They're flailing. But the good thing is they have lots of time to recover.

I wish I understood why they're panicking. A strategy designed at maximizing the chance of winning the immediate next election worked out pretty badly for the GOP, so I hope they recover before it's too late.

And that's abstracting from the "What's the point of electing Democrats if they won't enact any Democratic policies?" question.

My friend Guy Tower doesn't come here, but it would be nice for him to check in and admit that he lost the argument. 'Tis sort of amazing how fast President Obama has lost the hearts of his die-hard supporters. And Guy thought they'd back him no matter what he did ... feh.

Watching the SOTU.

Scott, the bet is off, no worries.

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