In the endless search for justifying political suicide — that is, continuing with the quest to pass ObamaCare — many on the Left argue that the “damage has been done.” In other words, they are already going to be punished by conservatives and independents for almost passing ObamaCare, so they might as well go through with it and please their base. Well, for starters, it’s nice to see that they finally realize that the bill is unpopular, that it was a lie that Democrats could pass it and “sell it later,” and that it’s going to cost many Democrats their seats. But is it really true that there’s no harm in going forward and passing a noxious bill that 70 percent of the electorate hates?
Megan McArdle neatly summarizes the argument on the side of “you gotta be kidding”:
Who are you more likely to leave: the spouse who makes a pass at another woman, and then thinks the better of it, or the spouse who goes through with it? Maybe you’ll leave them either way. But it does not follow that they are better off going through with it. I don’t think it is actually true that trying to pass a bill people hate, and then thinking the better of it because it turns out the electorate hates it, is no different from trying to pass a bill people hate, finding out that they really, really hate it, and then ignoring them and pushing it through anyway.
Moreover, passing ObamaCare would entail debating it and making more deals over an extended period of time, which is likely to remind everyone just why it was they hated the bill in the first place. Indeed, the threat of ObamaCare looming on the horizon is precisely what I suspect the Republicans are hoping for. It would keep the troops pumped up, send Democrats into a defensive crouch, and suck up time that could be better spent by Democrats doing things the voters might like better.
Now Public Policy Polling has a survey that Tom Jensen describes as follows:
The GOP leads 43-40 on the generic Congressional ballot. When you ask people how they’ll vote if the Democrats don’t pass their health care plan the GOP leads 43-38. That’s because the level of support from Democratic voters for their own party drops from 80% to 76% if there is no health care bill. The GOP level of support remains unchanged at this point whether it passes or not.
Well, that’s some evidence for the “go ahead and jump” advice. But the difference between passing and not passing the bill in the poll is within the margin. Moreover, it doesn’t account for how much madder independents will get in the interim as more attention is devoted to the bill. (Recall that with each vote in the House and Senate at the end of 2009, support for the bill went down.) In addition, the poll doesn’t consider a logical alternative that might actually help Democrats — passing a targeted set of reforms that many Republicans could support (e.g., tort reform, equalizing the tax treatment of individual- and employer-purchased health-care plans).
Elected lawmakers, I think, are reluctant to follow the advice of the Left (including those in the White House), which has driven its party’s fortunes into the ground in just a year. They see the results in New Jersey, Virginia, and Massachusetts and can read the polls for themselves. The double-down crowd may have appeal out in the blogosphere, but I don’t think there are too many takers among those still hoping to avoid being swept out in the wave election of 2010.