Why Empty Rhetoric Matters

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I’m going to have to disagree with Atrios about the desirability of presidential candidates committing to something reasonably specific on health care. The need for specifics comes in not during the politics of the election campaign, but the politics of the legislative process. One of the reasons the Clinton health care initiative was derailable was that Clinton campaigned and won and a promise to devise a plan for universal health care, not on a particular plan (there were other problems, obviously, and the task was intrinsically difficult, etc., but this was one of the flaws of his legislative strategy). The best way to get something done, would be to propose something, be viciously attacked for it throughout a presidential campaign, then emerge victorious and demand action after inauguration.

That said, where I do agree with Atrios is that it’s very early yet in this process. I have no particular desire to see the contenders roll out platforms and agendas at this point. It’s in everyone’s interest for everyone to stay vague and for everything to stay low-key for quite some time now. There’s no particular point in outlining a governing agenda for 2009-10 in early 2007.