Here’s how bad it’s gotten: David Frum, the dude who used to write speeches for the worst president we’ve ever endured, has written the most lacerating epitaph for The (Tea) Party of No, here. The entire thing is a must-read, and the closing paragraph demands to be quoted in full:
So today’s defeat for free-market economics and Republican values is a huge win for the conservative entertainment industry. Their listeners and viewers will now be even more enraged, even more frustrated, even more disappointed in everybody except the responsibility-free talkers on television and radio. For them, it’s mission accomplished. For the cause they purport to represent, it’s Waterloo all right: ours.
Here is the really ugly part: Frum is not Monday morning quarterbacking. He was practically pleading with anyone who would listen how (self) destructive this unified and unyielding obstruction would be in both the short and long term. In fairness, the G.O.P. had deluded itself into thinking that the fantasy they were spinning was gold, not shit. And there were plenty of cowards and co-opted folks in the media and inside the Democratic party who still hadn’t figured out how to stand up to bullies. (Instant update and mid-post edit: holy shit, look who just got “terminated” by AEI. You really can’t script this stuff better, and how made-to-order this full-scale Republican implosion is unfolding. Can you say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED? Holy shit.)
Of course this problem was exacerbated in no small measure by Obama himself being way too cool and detached on the sidelines as the Fox News and RNC fear factories spewed out their garbage and took control of the narrative (and I’ll never forget, or forgive the cynical and craven Rahm Emanuel for folding like a shanty house in a hurricane the second Scott Brown pulled off his big upset in Massachussetts). Finally, at almost the last possible second, Obama joined the fray, inspired more by the need for survival than anything else. But to his eternal credit, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work. As we saw, the results were immediately apparent and quite positive.
Can we now, at long last, acknowledge what many of us suspected all along: the bill was never “wildly unpopular” with the general public. Or, to put a finer point on it, more than a little of that disenchantment was actually coming from Democrats who (correctly) felt the bill was not strong enough. But, as many of us suspected all along, when push came to shove of course they would endorse even a rather weak and watered down bill for two primary reasons. One, virtually any bill was better than the alternative the G.O.P. was offering, which was nothing (well, more tax cuts). And two, the Republicans absolutely meant it when they bragged that killing health reform would kill Obama’s presidency. In hindsight, if only a handful of Republicans had crossed the aisle, it’s likely the bill would have failed. By doubling down on the obstinance they have practically patented at this point the Republicans essentially dared the Democrats to pull together and see this through. Without that total, and arrogant, defiance, I’m not at all certain the Dems, famous for their inability to do anything, would have gotten the ball across the goal line.
As always, the so-called Liberal Media was about as useless as usual (and their general incompetence increases in direct proportion to the overall degeneracy of our political discourse). Obsessed with the trivial horse-race aspects of who won the most recent news cycle, and handicapping the odds and chances of whether some bill (any bill) might pass, they did less than a little to help dispel the truly hysterical talking points and outright falsehoods the right wing noise machine was expelling into the air.
And here is what I said to a friend last week: “If/when this bill actually passes you are going to quickly see the shameless media transition from the Obama’s presidency is doomed! meme to the Obama back on track! and all of a sudden we would begin to once again hear the t-word (transformative) associated with his presidency. In fairness, both of those assumptions are more or less accurate: if the bill had failed, it would have emboldened the Republicans and further intimidated the feckless Democrats (and we likely would have seen increased –and detrimental– influence from that paper tiger Rahm Emanuel); on the other hand, with the bill passing, it allows Obama and his party to regain (and more importantly, articulate) the narrative. Both parties knew what was at stake, although it (typically) took the Dems about eight months too long to feel the necessary urgency. For this alone, the oft-ridiculed Harry Reid should get his moment in the sun and be properly lauded for hanging in there and doing a ton of heavy, often thankless lifting. Likewise, Nancy Pelosi has gone from being a controversial figure to an instant legend: she, like Obama, was overlooked and underestimated, and it came back to bite her opponents in a big way. And man must that bite sting.
Lo and behold, look what happened to those opinion polls, literally overnight. Kind of hard to say the “majority” of Americans hated this bill, huh? And more importantly, that was always a bogus formulation. It was pretty obvious to anyone not at a tea party or on the NRCC payroll that more than a little of that antipathy was coming from the left. These folks (quite understandably) believed the bill was not strong enough: they (we) knew that this same bill was arguably to the right of what Nixon advocated in the early ’70s (!) and it was certainly close, if not a tad milder than what Bob Dole endorsed less than two decades ago (!!). Regardless, we understood that when putsch came to shove, (something made infinitely easier courtesy of the Republicans’ very vocal and uninhibited declaration that their sole intention was to stand as one in obstruction to the bill, and Obama) many of them would unite in support of this initiative. And that’s pretty much what happened.
So what about the independent voters?
Well, this coveted and often capricious demographic generally makes or breaks a sitting president and his legislation. How bad will the mid-terms be for the Dems? I felt they never would have been nearly as bad as many were predicting last month (or last week for that matter); I feel the prospects are much better now. In part because today, as much as ever, perception is reality: Obama (and this bill) is a winner. Equally important, people do tend to appreciate a leader who can get things accomplished. That he hung in there and did something presidents have been attempting to achieve for almost a century is also a self-fulfilling historical narrative. Obama has injected life, meaning and import into his first term.
To the victor go the spoils, history is written by the winners, etc. But it’s more (and less) than that: just as the fairly hysterical media coverage post-Brown did not paint an accurate portrayal of what was really going on, or what was likely to happen, the surprise passage of HCR is not going to transform moderates into liberals. It doesn’t need to. Unless the bill begins rescinding peoples’ coverage because of pre-existing conditions or bankrupting families who can’t pay their bills (oh wait, that’s what is already happening), it stands to reason that HCR will never be more unpopular than it was last Saturday. After Sunday, the bill can only get more popular in direct proportion to the number of people who realize it’s not only not the end of the world, but actually a pretty swell thing. This transformation is already underway(not just the big shift in public opinion in recent polls); each day that goes by without any of the more outrageous Republican predictions coming true is another opportunity for T&R (Truth and Reality) to vanquish the hysteria.
There was a good reason Karl Rove lost his shit on Sunday while David Plouffe toyed with him (and showed, about ten years too late, the most effective way to defuse this braying rodeo clown). Rove knew what everyone else on his team was figuring out: they threw everything they had, and everything they could possibly fabricate, in the monomaniacal pursuit of defeating HCR. And they still lost. The reason they wanted to beat it so badly was not because The Party Of No has the best interests of anyone at heart; it’s because they knew this would be political gold for Obama, and Dems for decades. Think about it for a second: if they even half-believed a fraction of the dire repercussions they were robotically shrieking about, they would have happily gotten out of the way and let Obama have his way. Because, if it was going to be so awful, and it was so clearly against the will of most Americans, the Dems would pay a very dear price for their assumptions. Of course, what is becoming increasingly clear, from the stimulus to HCR, is that during one of the worst years Americans have endured since The Big D, Democrats have scrambled and strategized to make things better while The Party Of No has held their breath, sucked their thumbs and egged on the worst elements of the lunatic fringe that now bolsters their base.
It’s a loaded term, particularly in light of the very recent outbreaks of violence, threats and manufactured outrage, but a day of reckoning is imminent. And it’s not for the party being targeted by this illiterate mob of mouth-breathing imbeciles; it will be for the party that has cynically, and eagerly, stoked the flames of this tea party silliness. These idiots were useful for the farcical “town hall meetings” (speaking of manufactured outrage, and an unhealthy dose of straight-up racism), and to provide flesh to bolster the dubious proclamations about how unpopular health care reform was/is. Now that the battle is over, and now that so many of these “real Americans” have exposed themselves for who they really are, it’s going to be difficult for the G.O.P. to disown them at the very moment that their association may finally be unwelcome.
But, as the song goes, breaking up is hard to do. It was truly disgusting to see the contemptible Eric Cantor go from expressing tepid disapproval at reports of violence and paranoid hostility to shifting the blame to Democrats. Look, one need only read this blog (filed under “Politics”) to see that I have few qualms calling out my own side for its inanity, incompetence and self-absorption whenever it’s warranted. But at this particular moment in time, there is no getting around the fact that one party alone is associated with this ugliness. That violence is being encouraged is a repugnant enough thing; that it’s underscored by explicit racist, homophobic, nationalistic rhetoric is another. That this racist, homophobic, nationalistic rhetoric is funneled out ’round the clock by a major propaganda machine disguised as a “news” network is yet another. That a major political party is applauding and abetting this sewage is still another. That it has been kicked up a notch by that party’s recent VP candidate finally begs the question: is there a bottom here? At what point does a semblance of shame or propriety or, when all else fails, the impetus for political survival override this insanity?
As always, only time will tell. In the meantime, it’s equal parts encouraging and appalling to see what’s left of the Republican Party doubling down on denial and the fake fury that is born out of fear. For the sake of all our moral and responsible citizens, let’s hope they continue racing furiously in the other direction while Democrats –and the future of progress they represent –leave them in this moribund fantasy land of their own making.