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Is There A Historian In the House?

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"Is There A Historian In the House?"

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Here’s an issue that’s relevant to persistent demands that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton present more details about a health care plan during the campaign. Implicit in the pro-details side of things seems to be a kind of mandate literalism about the American legislative process. The idea is that if a candidate has a proposal on the table, runs on the proposal, gets attacked on the proposal, and then wins the election anyway that this makes it much more likely that congress will actually pass the proposal.

That makes a ton of logical sense. But is it historically accurate? Bush’s tax cut proposals were put before the voters in 2000 and rejected by a clear majority and they passed anyway. FDR, by contrast, didn’t campaign on anything resembling the New Deal he actually implemented. I have to plead ignorance about the 1964 campaign — did Lyndon Johnson provide a detailed vision of Medicare and Medicaid before the election?

UPDATE: Some evidence. Time‘s coverage in 1964 foresaw something like Medicare as a result of Democratic victory, though it was very vaguely described, and doesn’t envision Medicaid.

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