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Have The Republicans Blown Their Chance On Health Care ?

by @ 4:58 pm on August 11, 2009. Filed under Barack Obama, Health Care Reform, Politics, Republicans

Marc Ambinder thinks the answer is yes:

The American people remain anxious and confused about health care reform. That is an underlying reality that Republican activists are so eager to exploit. But doing so required a certain restraint — and a willingness to traffic in at least approximate truths — and an ability to make distinctions within their own ranks about which tactics were valid and which tactics were venomous. It also required a sophistication about the media. The base condition here is an enthusiastic Republican base and a depressed Democratic base. A coherent, organized effort would have recognized that the moment the media began to take sides was the moment that the entire enterprise could be damaged. The media, being a collection of different megaphones, reported on the town hall meetings in one of two ways, both damaging to Republicans. Either they credulously reported the louder, angrier voices (inherently damaging to Republicans in this case) or they reported on the political architecture of the town hall meetings, which plays down the substance of the protests.

Remember, the target audience for Republicans is Blue Dog Democrats in Congress. They won’t panic unless they perceive organic anxiety. The White House’s goal was to prevent the Blue Dogs from panicking. The swing constituents in these congressional districts aren’t angry Republicans, and the Blue Dogs know this. They’re political independents for whom the sanctity of the process is important. These are the type of voters who like President Obama because he appears willing to bring people together even though they don’t agree with their policies.

As usual, in a pattern that the left patented during the Bush administration, the organized right lost control of its message. Lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, were being asked to respond to non-sequiturs (would you support a health care reform plan that grows the deficit? Health care grows the deficit right now, so it’s a nonsense question, one that is easy for politicians to answer); ; they found their meetings full of engorged spleens. Unrestrained, these town hall meetings are going to turn off the type of voters Republicans most need to pressure Blue Dog Democrats — independents who don’t have red genes or blue genes.

I quoted Ambinder at length, because he makes an important point.

Despite all of the protesters, despite all of the talk on talk radio and cable news, and, yes, even despite all the polls showing the public’s skepticism on ObamaCare, the Republicans one chance of success here is to convince the Blue Dog Democrats in the House and the Senate that they would pay a severe political price for working with the Administration on health care reform. With the Blue Dogs, the bill passes. Without them, it fails. It’s really that simple.

Ambinder seems to think that the GOP has already failed at this task thanks to the incredibly bad press that the town hall protests have received. I don’t know whether he’s right or not, and we won’t know for sure until Congress is back in session and debate begins anew on HR3200, but I think it goes without saying that the right has hurt itself by allowing the town hall protesters to become the face and voice of the opposition.

12 Responses to “Have The Republicans Blown Their Chance On Health Care ?”

  1. One thing you have to remember is that bad press doesn’t mean all that much to the average American. So many people see the town hall protesters and such and see people who are angry about government interference in their lives. The trust of the media is about as low as confidence in Congress.

  2. Pug says:

    People saw similar antics in the fall election. The only difference is then they were screaming “terrorist”, “traitor” and “socialist”. Wait, they’re still screaming that.

    The public ignored them. The Democrats control 60% of both houses of Congress and the White House. Most of them ran on health care reform. Something is going to pass. It may not be the dream come true of the most liberal Democrats, but health care reform is going to pass.

  3. Ellen Rose says:

    The Democrats “… ran on health care reform”? Malarkey. Most of them ran on “I’m not Bush”. They ran on war, they ran on Guantanamo, they ran on the economy – and they ran against excessive Republican spending. But now the Democrats have the war, they have Guantanamo, they have the economy, and they’re working on their own excessive spending.

    Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss …

  4. JEM says:

    It’s not up to the GOP to convince the Blue Dogs of anything.

    The real question is who the Blue Dogs see as their constituency? Is it the voters in their districts, in which case they go back to DC properly frightened?

    Or is it Rahm’s buddies with the checkbooks, in which case voters are just a nuisance, a commodity to be purchased?

    The current occupant of the White House has pretty much been shorn of his coattails; these guys are going to have to run on their own merits in 2010.

  5. Drake says:

    Regardless of whether or not it passes in the current form, I would posit that the 2010 elections will be a much more competitive thing than it appeared six months ago.

  6. Rich Berger says:

    “People saw similar antics in the fall election. The only difference is then they werescreaming “terrorist”, “traitor” and “socialist”. Wait, they’re still screaming that.

    The public ignored them.”

    Even conceding your caricature of the anti-Obama crowd, the main problem for Obama is that many people are realizing that they were had in 2008.

  7. docweasel says:

    It’s really hilarious to see you argue that extreme tactics don’t work, in view of the fact the entire left has been hysterical, unfair, uncivil, mean-spirited, dishonest and vulgar and violent; and they have been _very_ successful in controlling the government, both the executive and the legislative. They might even take over the judiciary, if the health of certain Supreme Court Justices doesn’t hold up. And no amount of divisive cant on the part of the leftists nominees will hold them up from being confirmed, apparently.

    So I reject your entire point. What we need is MORE resistance, using every means possible. The Jokebama poster is exactly the way to bring down this administration: attack unfairly, harshly, dishonestly, vehemently, vulgarly and loudly and often.

    Concern trolls like yourself are the reason we are in the position we are in. McCain was the patron saint of concern trolls. Your advice should be ignored and milque-toast panty-waists like yourself shunned.

  8. Buanadha says:

    While many of the Democrats did run on health care reform the bulk of the gains in the house and senate over the past several years for the Democrats were in more conservative districts or in “purple” states. These people specifically did not run on single-payer government health care or on far left issues. They created the illusion that they were moderate and even conservative.

    If they pass this bill, they need to know they will be taken out of office in the next election. The people are OVERWHELMINGLY opposed to this bill (and opposed to politicians who sign things they haven’t read).

    In my view the Republicans are OK on this. Everyone knows the press will favor the democrats and everyone knows that the democrats are lying through their teeth in these town hall meetings. This is the expected democrat overreach which will cause people to swing back the other way.

  9. Rick Caird says:

    I really disagree with this analysis. No one, but no one, is going to say “I was against national health care, but after seeing the protesters, I now support it”. Anyone seeing these protests realize that the protesters are average Americans who are asking questions that are not being answered. Instead, we are getting pats on the head and advice not to worry about all those myths.

    Maybe, Ambinder and Mataconis think these protests are harmful, but they worked for social security and they worked for the protesters who chased Rostenkowski down the streets of Chicago got their point across.

    Rick

  10. Whitehall says:

    One of favorite characters from Greek mythology was Cassandra. She was cursed by Zeus to foresee the future but not have anyone believe her warnings.

    The ones screaming “socialist!” about Obama were the Cassandras of the last election. Now the independent voter who cast his or her ballot for Obama gets to see what the REAL policies of “hope and change” mean – and they don’t much like it.

    Hey, I told you so!

  11. RebeccaH says:

    What the voters are seeing in these videos is that people are tired of being lied to by politicians, we are tired of being treated like dumb hicks, and we are not going to take it anymore. The contempt that these politicians have for us has never been so arrogantly displayed. It’s no wonder we are all so angry, and we have ample justification for our anger.

    Backlash? Let another incident like that SEIU debacle in Florida happen, and you will see a backlash you’ll never forget.

  12. [...] Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » Have The Republicans Blown Their Chance On Health Care ? Ambinder seems to think that the GOP has already failed at this task thanks to the incredibly bad press that the town hall protests have received. I don’t know whether he’s right or not, and we won’t know for sure until Congress is back in session and debate begins anew on HR3200, but I think it goes without saying that the right has hurt itself by allowing the town hall protesters to become the face and voice of the opposition. [...]

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