Too Much Ms. Nice Abortion Rights Advocate?


Dana Goldstein reviews some Monday morning quarterbacking of the abortion in heath care issue:

“Maybe we should have” created a more threatening pro-choice coalition earlier on, said [Eleanor] Smeal. She continued, “Here we are playing nice guy again, we didn’t want to make a fuss, we agreed to a compromise that was already over-generous. And then, bango! These guys go in there like gangbusters. Pelosi was held up, like by bandits. Now the women are saying, ‘That’s it, it’s enough.’”

It’s hard to know for sure, but I’m inclined to agree with this second-guessing. A persistent liberal failure in terms of legislative tactics seems to me to be the repeated belief that if you try to make a compromise proposal, that the compromise will be adopted and then you’ll get half a loaf. The reality of the way the legislative bargaining process works, it seems to me, is that you make a proposal and then a bloc of moderate legislators demands concessions. Whatever you propose, you then have to make concessions since the moderates wouldn’t be moderate if they didn’t make the liberals make concessions. So you might as well have had the bill start with a sweeping expansion of abortion rights—require that all Exchange plans offer a full suite of reproductive health services. Then you start bargaining.

Would that have worked? I don’t know. But the public option example strikes me as encouraging. It looks like if there’s a public option in the final bill, it’ll be a shadow of its original self. But had the proposal started with something like the “level playing field” public option then there’d be nothing left.