It is difficult to understand the degree of the lack of understanding of health care reform politics that could produce the "go it alone" editorial by the New York Times today.
Essentially, the New York Times is advising the Democratic Congress to expose itself to enormous political risk for the sake of health care reform, and gives no recognition that the fundamental political baseline of health care reform has been reset.
The go it alone on health care reform blindly ignores the divides within the Democratic Party on health care reform, and these bill-killing-divisions include:
i) including abortion as a benefit;
ii) cutting Medicare by half a trillion dollars;
iii) to include or not, a public option;
iv) raising taxes (and which ones) to pay for the plan;
v) privacy issues over health care databases, of concern to privacy and second amendment activists;
vi) the personal animosity among Democratic members -- the most recent example of which is the Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health calling his fellow Blue Dog Members of Congress "brain dead," and that they are pursuing a "right-wing" agenda to get donations from the health care industry;
vii) the deficit and debt and $1 trillion in new spending questions;
viii) the government's control over all of the health plans that could be offered by insurers through the Health Information Exchange, and
ix) a collection of lesser issues of high concern to individual members that deal with their districts or states, that combined with all of the above, give them the back-bone to be at NO; and,
x) any combination of any of the above.
Political analyst Charlie Cook warned earlier this month that the political situation on health care reform had gotten completely out of hand, and that to expect things to remain the same when Congress returns would be a mistake. He is warning that the broadly based negative reaction by the American public (especially seniors and independents) has political consequences. The New York Times blithely ignores this new reality.
The New York Times seems to think that the change that is needed is not changing the reform proposed by the liberals in Congress, but changing the tactics by which these reforms are passed.
It as if the editorial board of the New York Times is standing in a rainstorm without an umbrella or rain coat and insisting they are not wet.
Furthermore, the New York Times heaps blame on Republicans for the trouble health reform is in now, not on the design of the reform that Americans are loudly and clearly objecting to -- which is the height of contortionism. Democrats have a huge majority in the U.S. House, 59 votes in the U.S. Senate (including two independents), the White House, the boot-licking media who keep pushing the reform agenda down American's throats and Phrma's millions in ad dollars. But the New York Times blames the Republicans -- not the Democrats -- for the health reform troubles. After all, if the New York Times did not blame the Republicans, they would have to blame the American people. This, of course, would not help sell newspapers, would it? And the New York Times would have to admit they are on the wrong side of the American public, which would seriously disrupt their strong sense of moral superiority on the health care issue.
As a rule, Members of Congress are a risk-adverse group, and the political risks of health care reform exceed any issue since the demise of Hillarycare.
Despite the New York Times refusal to recognize that the Republican boogieman is an unbelievable straw man, it is an excuse along the lines of the dog-ate-my-homework (i.e. it is not credible) and is a generally a tired and worn-out excuse by liberals who have repeatedly made colossal political errors, the New York Times does acknowledge their prescription in this editorial, not to change the reform, but to pass as much of the proposed reform as possible, is risky:
"If the Democrats want to enact health care reform this year, they appear to have little choice but to adopt a high-risk, go-it-alone, majority-rules strategy."
"The approach is risky."
"Clearly the reconciliation approach is a risky."
The New York Times (amazingly) also acknowledges that "Next year, as the midterm elections approach, it will be even harder for legislators to take controversial stands. After the elections, if history is any guide, the Democratic majorities could be smaller."So why, exactly, is it that Democratic Senators and Congressmen should risk their political lives on a plan being pushed by the New York Times?
Good question, and one the New York Times hints at very slightly, in its statement at the start of the editorial:
"If the Democrats want to enact health care reform this year...."
So it has come to this, in a major Sunday New York Times editorial, they are at "IF the Democrats want to enact health reform...."
There is a saying in election politics: if by putting your candidate out on the stump, their poll numbers keep going down, stop putting your candidate out on the stump. (Another version of this saying is: they don't have the sense to get out of the rain.)
It is unclear if this lesson has been lost on the Democrats -- the more they talk about health care reform, the worst their poll numbers get -- but they keep talking about it. They keep thinking up new reasons to talk about it -- to keep standing in the rain.
In short, health care reform is in a political death whirlpool, and the New York Times is standing in the rain, insisting they are not wet, and telling their friends in the Democratic party, I know whirlpools can be risky, but really, the risk is worth it.
Put yourself in a Democratic member of the U.S. House or U.S. Senate, would you want to reform health care this year and face the x) issues (likely more) listed above, or, would you rather go through the exercise of looking like you are trying, and as James Carville said, let it die and blame the Republicans?