Galston: Onward!


Bill Galston, as best I can tell, always thinks bold progressive action is a bad idea. He always thought taking up health reform was a bad idea. But even he understands that having come so far, it’s doubly suicidal to back out and not pass anything.

To try to put something I’ve said before in another way, folks working on the Hill need to try to step for a moment outside their little circle of Hilliness. Those of us who follow this stuff professional are aware that there is not and has never been a bill called “the Obama health care plan” nor is there any such thing as “Obamacare.” There are, rather, separate pieces of legislation. A House bill, a Senate bill, a Senate Finance Committee draft. And to professionals, there are important differences between these bills. House members voted for the House bill, but the Senate bill is something else entirely. Senate members voted for the Senate bill, but some amendments to make the tax provisions less-unfavorable to union members would be a whole separate bill. I understand all that. I write blog posts about it all the time.

But no normal people care about that even a little. The public has views on the “Obama health care plan.” And 59 out of 59 Democratic incumbent Senators voted for the Obama health care plan. And 218 Democratic House incumbents voted for the Obama health care plan. This plan does not poll well today. And if the narrative about the plan in the media becomes a narrative of failure, all about why Obamacare went down, it will poll even worse. And this plan has unpopular elements, and it has elements that can—and will—be portrayed in a misleadingly negative light. And all this is already baked into the cake. The votes cannot be untaken. But it is still possible to (a) accomplish something for the American people, (b) at least have a chance at turning the narrative around, and (c) avoid demoralizing those people who do like the health care plan.