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Democrats’ Interests, Ctd.


Jonathan Chait writes:

Ramesh is missing the point. Of course it is in the individual interests of Democrats in conservatve districts to vote against health care reform. But it is in their collective interest for such a plan to pass. Indeed, the political failure of the Clinton health care plan was part of what made it unpopular. It was described as the ‘failed Clinton plan,’ endlessly dissected for its weaknesses, elevated into an emblem of big government, and turned into a millstone around the neck of the whole Democratic Party. If the plan actually passes, none of these things will happen.

Chait presents a plausible theory for why the conventional wisdom that passing “health-care reform” is in the collective short-term interest of Democrats is right. But he doesn’t provide any evidence that the theory is correct. Sure, we would have seen fewer news analyses on the Democrats’ “failure to govern” if Clintoncare had passed in 1994. But I tend to think of this sort of reaction as an elite thumbsucking phenomenon that did not, and could not, actually sway many votes.

Clintoncare was unpopular before it failed to pass, and I suspect its failure to pass was at most a marginal cause of Democratic defeats in 1994. The current situation differs in one significant respect that strengthens the argument that Democrats can join in killing a misbegotten attempt at health-care reform without paying electoral consequences: The election is a lot further away now than it was then.

For good or ill, Chait can relax.


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