The trap of absolutist health care reform opposition will hurt Republicans

Greg Sargent at The Plumline has a piece up about the upcoming HCR litmus test the rightwingers are going to hold Republicans to over the next eight months.

He describes how anything less than absolute rejection and opposition from the likes of the already intensely disliked Mitch McConnell will not go over well with the empowered rightwing fringe:

That’s not good enough for right wing activists. Erick Erickson of redstate.org criticized McConnell for dodging the question. “Politicians should actually say ‘yes’ when they mean ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when they mean ‘no,’ instead of dancing around the issue,” he wrote.

Newt Gingrich threw down the same gauntlet on “Meet the Press” yesterday when he said, “I suspect that every Republican in 2010 and 2012 will run on an absolute pledge to repeal this bill.”

By insisting on ideological purity and making a bet that the bill will be universally unpopular, conservatives are leaving Republican candidates with no room for flexibility.

Igor Volsky at Think Progress has the Gingrich video:

Volsky writes:

While the exchanges don’t go into effect until 2014, the Senate health care bill spends approximately $10 billion between 2011 and 2014 on interim benefits. The bill immediately prohibits insurers from rescinding coverage, imposing life-time or annual limits or denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Applicants who are unable to find insurance in the individual market, can purchase catastrophic coverage and young adults can stay on their parents’ policies until their 27th birthday. Small businesses that provide health coverage will also be eligible for tax credits beginning in 2010.

The bill requires health insurers to spend 80 to 85 percent of all premium dollars on medical care and reduces the size of the coverage gap in Medicare Part D “by $500 in the first year.” The bill also guarantees “50 percent price discounts on brand-name drugs and biologics purchased by low and middle-income beneficiaries in the coverage gap.”

These benefits could also improve as the Senate bill moves into conference. Several House progressives have pledged to push the conference committee to move up the implementation date of the exchanges in the final bill and front load more benefits into the interim period of the final legislation [original links not included here].

It seems redundant to add in all the links Volsky includes in his post since anyone interested in checking his claims can follow the links from his post. Also, sorry for the long quotes but they’re necessary to drive home the point: rightwingers and Republicans are over confident in general and specifically incorrect in their assumption that a majority of voters in 2010 and 2012 will adopt their absolutist opposition to HCR.

They have succeeded — only temporarily, I believe — in making a lot of people nervous about reform. However, they appear to have overly discounted the effect of the interim benefits kicking in immediately. Almost everyone will know at least one person who’s situation will be improved, perhaps very greatly, by one or more of the early benefits.

They will then weigh those tangible improvements in the life of someone they know and interact with against the abstract charges of communism, fascism, union thuggery or whatever bircherite nonsense some rightwing Republican is spouting off.

They will know that, if the rightwingers and their Republican lackeys had got their way, those improvements in the life of someone they know and maybe even care a great deal about would never have happened. And these voters will know that the rightwingers and Republicans have explicitly promised to rescind those benefits if they vote for them.

That will be an intensely powerful incentive to not vote for any Republican, even the few who are not such rightwing extremist on other issues. It doesn’t mean everyone will vote for Democrats, just that some voters who would be otherwise inclined to vote for Republicans in 2010 will instead stay home or withhold their votes in congressional elections.

Rightwingers and Republicans shouted all the same nanny state socialism charges when social security, medicare and medicaid went into effect. Now, of course, they pledge to safeguard those very programs. Democrats are now betting that the same will happen with HCR, and to a measurable degree before 2010.

Rightwingers and Republicans are betting not enough such benefits will kick in before next November, although they are really really frightened that enough actually will do just that. By instituting this purity test, they are putting all their eggs in this basket.

But I think this tactic will not succeed. It will be a concrete reminder that elections really do have consequences and most people are not so ideologically hidebound that they will inflict clear and immediate pain on others just to remain true to the health insurance industry’s best interests.

Of course, for this to happen, the benefits must kick in before the first Tuesday of next November.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The trap of absolutist health care reform opposition will hurt Republicans

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