Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Are the Democrats Winning on Healthcare?

I have no idea whether the President has been listening more to Rahm Emmanuel or not, but whoever is devising the White House's new healthcare strategy deserves a raise.  There was no doubt that not too long ago, the White House was getting killed by the healthcare question.  But the tide appears to be turning.

The White House has done a great job repositioning the debate with the President's healthcare proposal, the healthcare summit, now news that the President is incorporating some Republican ideas into his healthcare proposal, and what seems to be unity among the Democrats (in both chambers of Congress) in support of reconciliation.  Buoyed by continuous polls that the specific ideas in the President's proposal are very popular with the American public, the President has crafted a relatively centrist proposal, he is framing his approach as bipartisan and non-ideological while at the same time framing the Republicans as obstructionists.  This could be brilliant, if it works.

The Democrats big gamble is that healthcare reform will be popular once it is passed.  The White House's calculation seems pretty simple.  If they don't pass pass some version of reform their base will be demoralized and depressed.  If they do pass reform there is some probability that the other side will be energized but there is also the chance that independent voters will be satisfied and reform would be popular.  When you combine the probability of keeping liberals engaged, with the probability that independents will come to support the reform package once its passed (not to mention the side-benefit that independents will view the President and the Democrats as having the capability of getting something done), getting healthcare through by any means necessary seems to be the optimal strategy. 

The remarkable feat here is that someone (or someones) in the leadership got the rank-and-file nervous Democrats to go along with this, at least it looks like most of them are going along.

Now we await the Republican response.

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