Eyes on Prizes

Sorry to do a second Debbie Downer post this morning, but aside from the pitfalls that await gun and immigration legislation in the House even if they escape the Senate, it’s important at this juncture to remember that the most important policy developments this year will involve GOP efforts to unravel Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, no matter what happens to Obama’s “second-term agenda.” As Paul Glastris put it in his Editor’s Note for the March-April issue of the Washington Monthly:

[T]he most consequential drama of 2013 will not be the battle over Obama’s second-term agenda. It will be the struggle to implement his first-term achievements—which, truth be told, dwarf anything he is likely to get out of Congress going forward. Obamacare, the Rooseveltian capstone of his presidency, will, if it can be made to work, deliver health care to twenty-seven million uninsured Americans and begin the task of reining in health care cost growth. Dodd-Frank, for all its many flaws, is a massive, complex rewriting of regulation for the entire financial sector, the success or failure of which could determine whether or not we go through another financial meltdown.

In case you missed Phillip Longman’s article on the poison pills originally embedded in Obamacare (aside from the struggle of some Republican governors and legislators to obstruct implementation of the bill at the state level), or Haley Sweetland Edwards’ much-praised examination of the intense campaign to gut Dodd-Frank, now’s the time to read them. Progress in any area is welcome, but looking at the bigger picture is essential as an antidote to the happy talk emanating from Washington about a “thaw” in hardened partisan attitudes.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.