The Democrats' dilemma in passing or not passing their healthcare Christmas tree now comes down to this.
For some Dems on the far left (Dennis Kucinich now not among them, at a price that one can only imagine), the bill doesn't go far enough. For many on the left, it's as good as they can get. For the center-left, the true center and everyone to the right, it is far, far too expensive, ineffective, counterproductive, unfocused, utopian, centrally planned, pointlessly complex, economically uninformed, and unresponsive to real needs.
This reality is reflected in two related observations. One is that Steny Hoyer continues to obfuscate on whether his majority party has the votes to pass its signature legislation. The other is that polling continues to show that Americans at large are engaged on the issue and decisively dislike this legislation.
These two issues are related, of course, in that Democrats don't know whether their political future is best served by eating this dog's breakfast or spitting it out. If they eat, they fire up their opposition, cede the middle, and lose swing districts and states in 2010. If they spit, they alienate their activist base, as even the far left that dislikes this bill is unlikely to get active campaigning for a party that fails to pass a bill this year. Either way, they lose in November.
Put this in the microcosmic perspective of one Steve Driehaus, Congressman from the First District of Ohio, SWNID's own.
Driehaus is ostensibly a pro-life, fiscally conservative Democrat, i.e. the kind that many Democrats fantasize as the true heart and soul of their party--or at least a tolerable alternative to crass Republican right-wing hypocrites. Driehaus presently represents a district that has mostly been controlled by Republicans, with the locally esteemed Steve Chabot (R-Combover) having held the seat for several consecutive terms. Driehaus beat Chabot in 2008 thanks to exceptional Democratic turnout in a district with a large number of African-American voters, turnout driven by a charismatic figure at the head of the ticket.
Driehaus's odds of holding his seat in the off year have always depended on matching turnout from 2008, a longshot given the district's demographics and the larger history of off-year elections. As an incumbent, he could conceivably win over former Chabot voters by hewing a principled line of fiscal conservatism and pro-life principles. But doing so risks alienating the small but powerful liberal base of his district, the people like the SEIU and MoveOn.org who control the fund-raising and retail politics of his party.
And now those stakes have been raised by a power of ten that matches the factor needed to describe in scientific notation the number of pages in the ObamaCare bill. Choose your poison, Congressman: alienate your base or alienate your district's modal voter.
We figure that Driehaus is being offered a deal, much as the hapless Kucinich undoubtedly was. For Driehaus we figure it's the guarantee of a comfortable sinecure after he is drummed out of office in November. There's been a lot of that kind of thing in Ohio lately
Among political pundits, various hypotheses abound concerning the Democratic leadership's political motives for this mess. One is that it's worth a short-term loss of power to establish another universal entitlement, thereby further empowering over the long term the party of patron-client relationships over the party of yeoman citizenry. We find that cogent, though perhaps not entirely persuasive.
Another is that Ds don't expect to pass this bill at all but want to run again against Republicans as the party of no in November. We also find this cogent, though not entirely persuasive.
At this point, we're inclined to see a third hypothesis as the primary explanation for this mess: that it is the result of a long series of significant miscalculations, powered by beholdenness to organized labor and related special interests and enabled by post-election hubris. We'll note the following as a way of describing that.
Remember when the Ds invoked "history" as justification for their passage of the health bill? "History" here referred, of course, not to the past but to the general direction toward which Democrats divine human events to be moving (note the relationship between such thinking and the quaint notions of such 19th century thinkers as Marx, but note as well that those who think this way aren't necessarily Marxists, just as sloppy in their thinking as Marx). On the one occasion when the Ds got a positive vote from an R(INO), Senator Snowe said momentously, "When history calls, history calls." Words to live by!
Well, we haven't heard much about history lately have we? History ended in November. Now we hear justification du jour: people will like it when they get it (or can even read it: there's still no language to be voted on), Republicans act this way all the time (never mind that Republicans, when they act this way are evil: "Mom, Dad, everyone does it!"), we can't afford not to act (even if we know we're doing much more harm than good and will spend more than we save), we'll never have this chance again (as if "history" can't come around to something better), and other proposals won't work (where "work" is defined as "boil the ocean instantly").
With all this, we remain convinced that nothing will happen on March 18 or March 21 or April 1 or any other date final set by the Democratic leadership. The chaos will not abate.