Monday, July 20, 2009


Senator Jim DeMint said the other day that if the Republicans are able to stop the passage of health care reform in Congress, it will be Obama's Waterloo. "It will break him." Of course there is a natural desire on the part of the opposition to resist the administration's agenda, and much of this desire can be attributed to good faith policy disagreements.

But I am wondering why the Republicans think that stopping health care reform in particular is a good electoral strategy for them. If they succeed, what are they going to say in next year's Congressional election campaigns: "Vote Republican. We stopped health care reform, so Americans can continue to enjoy the health care system that they have"? The trouble with that message is that most Americans don't seem all that happy with the health care system that we have. If, on the other hand, Republicans have defined the health care battle as Waterloo, and Republicans fail in stopping health care reform, then maybe it is going to be the Republicans' Waterloo.

The ironic part is that President Obama never tried to make the health care debate into a battle. The President from the beginning offered the other side the full opportunity to participate in the process, and has already compromised his position (some would say too much) so that the resulting reform aims to satisfy all legitimate interests. It is the opposition that has defined the process as a battle which will have winners and losers. By raising the stakes, they seem to increased the chances that they will be the losers regardless of whether or not significant health insurance reform is enacted this year.


  1. Waterloo allowed the French to overthrow a dictator so it's not all bad. And the Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate so if it doesn't pass their it's their fault.

  2. Joe,

    The Republican's goal probably is not to adopt a position that will attract the support of a majority of voters. Most of their major policy positions since 1994 have not enjoyed majority support, but they were able nonetheless to win a lot of elections during that period.

    The Reoublican's goal is exactly what DeMint and others are saying: hand President Obama a huge defeat and cut down his popularity. That would not be enough for the Republicans to succeed at the polls, but it might be a necessary first step. On the other hand, if it succeeds, the President probably will emerge stronger and the Democrats could be in a much stronger position next year and in subsequent elections. So in a cynical way, the Republican strategy might make sense. Let's hope they fail.

    Regarding Harrison's comment: The result of Waterloo was the replacement of Napoleon with Louis XVIII. It was not a victory for liberty, equality, etc.

  3. Harrison is right that the Democrats have 60 votes in the Senate (even though that includes some pretty conservative folk who are not totally with the program) so they can't blame the Republicans if health care does not pass. So if the Democrats have the votes, and Republicans are probably not going to be successful in defeating health care reform, what was DeMint talking about? Was the idea of defeating Obama on health care wishful thinking on his part, or was he just trying to rally his base? Or maybe the Republicans just want to make sure that they will be able to blame the Democrats for anything people might be unhappy about next year, whether that is an economy that might still be struggling, or the increasing deficit, or higher taxes, or a new health insurance system that might bring its own problems.

  4. Playing political games over such an important issue as healtcare is not civilized in my opinion.

    Waterloo was a victory for the British, Prusian, and Dutch armies over Napoleon. Nothing else.
    dutch in Istanbul

  5. Hans,

    It was also a victory for the French as Napoleon was shown the door... his comeback tour didn't work, either.

    Joe, I've never heard of one party blaming the other in case the American people are unhappy... that must be a new tactic!

  6. Civilized political debate? What a concept. I can't remember when I saw that happen last. Maybe it's because the media is not really interested in presenting important issues in a civilized way. Last night for example, the President held a one hour press conference in which he spent almost the whole time giving very detailed answers about health care reform. But there wasn't much discussion about the substance of his presentation on tv, and it seemed that all the media could talk about was this stupid Gates incident. And one commentator I heard last night who did talk about the health care presentation and is generally sympathetic to Obama was disappointed that it was so dry and unemotional. I actually think a lot of people are very concerned about how to fix our health insurance system, but at the same time, a lot of people are also very interested in cheap political theatre, and the media is more interested in satisfying the second interest.

  7. This story is in agreement:

    A president doesn't want to get into the hardcore issues because they will be exposed. The press loves Obama and they have not been doing their jobs looking for issues. Obama has gotten a pass while he's been in office despite his numerous reversals.

    If this continues he has the chance to pass his cap and trade and Obamakare. We will be the losers for it but I agree that we do not get good coverage. And when the critical issues are raised, as on Fox News during their hard news shows they are called biased.