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Sabato: The Politics of the Cloture Vote


So what does tonight’s vote mean? Can the Senate’s week off for Thanksgiving change the politics of the health-care debate? What happens if the debate ends up stretching through December and into 2010?

For answers, NRO asked Larry Sabato, the astute professor of politics at the University of Virginia, for his take.

“Three elections guaranteed the 60 votes: 2006 and 2008, which gave Democrats the White House and large Hill majorities, and 2009,” says Sabato. He continues: “What’s that, you say? Didn’t Republicans win the day in ‘09?”

“Yes, and the Republican interpretation of ‘09, as applied to health care, was that the victories of Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell would deter the Democrats from moving forward on the bill,” says Sabato. “But Democrats drew precisely the opposite lesson from ‘09. In their analysis, if they didn’t hang together and re-energize their party activists with a health-care win, they’d hang separately in November 2010. Worried senators and congressmen began to see their names etched on the wall of losers, right after Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds.”

“The conclusion, as always,” says Sabato, “is that elections matter — and so do the prevailing interpretations of those elections.”

“It is always possible that some new rationale will take hold after Thanksgiving, especially if this debate drags on and on, but there is no compelling substitute for the classroom of elections,” he adds. “Rallies, demonstrations, and protest letters are vastly inferior to the ballot box, if one’s goal is to influence legislative behavior. The pro-reform forces have a big advantage in this sense.”


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