IT’S ALWAYS GOOD NEWS FOR REPUBLICANS…. It’s not exactly breaking news that the U.S. health care system is a dysfunctional mess. It costs too much and covers too few. It leaves tens of millions of Americans behind. It costs more than every other industrialized system and offers less. Tens of thousands of Americans die every year from a lack of coverage, and thousands more go bankrupt because they can’t pay their health care bills.
Americans have been talking about fixing the broken system for the better part of a century, but right now, we’re on the cusp of finally doing something about it.
Democrats are unhappy and a bit worried about a theme developing in the mainstream press that the House’s vote on health care legislation puts dozens of the party’s members in electoral vulnerability.
In the days since the House of Representatives passed legislation by a 220 to 215 vote, a slew of stories have emerged — fed by an aggressive posture from the Republican Party — that supporting members now find themselves in hot water.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza identified the “five toughest votes” in the House — they were all cast by Democrats. Politico, likewise, noted on Monday that 12 Democratic lawmakers now find themselves with a political bulls-eye on their backs related to their vote.
“They’re taking GOP talking points,” complained one Democratic strategist. “Passing reform is extraordinarily popular. Just look at the polling.”
It’s been quite an odd year. For the better part of 2009, congressional Republicans had to try to convince the public that they didn’t really want health care reform (“You may be drowning, but don’t trust those folks trying to throw you a life-preserver — it’s a government life-preserver”). Now that this landmark piece of legislation has a real shot, congressional Republicans have to try to convince everyone that this once-in-a-generation opportunity — the holy grail of domestic policy initiatives — is somehow a political poison for anyone who supports it.
And the media is falling for it.
It’s simply not occurring to those who shape the conventional wisdom to ask, “How are Republicans going to explain their opposition to health care reform to voters? How will they tell families who can’t get coverage due to a pre-existing condition that they fought like hell against the solution? How can they justify to workers who lost their coverage when they lost their job that they didn’t want to approve a bill that would help?”
The GOP is on the wrong side of history, but it’s good news for Republicans anyway. Everything always is.
Update: A friend of mine emails, “The Dems started the year with 58 Senate seats and 257 House seats. They end it with 60 Senate seats and 258 House seats. This is good news for Republicans, too.”