Hitting legend Stan Musial once allegedly declared that the “first principle of contract negotiations is don’t remind them of what you did in the past; tell them what you’re going to do in the future.” That neatly sums up how liberals would like to treat these budget /debt ceiling showdowns. Take for example:
Serious Q: Has any R explained cogently *why* Ds should give Rs unilateral concessions in exchange for funding gov at sequester levels?
— Greg Sargent (@ThePlumLineGS) October 2, 2013
Now, if history had kicked off five minutes ago this would be a reasonable question, but since politics is a continuum and Obamacare doesn’t exist in a vacuum it’s a misleading one.
In reality, the only characteristic of the Affordable Care Act that’s “unilateral” is the manner in which it was passed; without consensus and without the minimal compromises that would have rendered long-term Republican opposition to Obamacare untenable. If Democrats had, back in 2009-2010, capitulated on one or two conservative objectives – out-of-state insurance markets or tort reform, for instance – this moment would be impossible.
Today, left-wing pundits wring their hand about partisan inflexibility and conventional wisdom of the media has coagulated around the “hostage taking” storyline. Back then, they were less concerned the health of Washington. Any alleged concessions made by the Administration in 2010 were aimed at corralling wayward Red State Democrats, resulting in the removal of the public option and the adding of bogus guarantees on abortion funding. And any concessions on bringing the price tag below a trillion dollars – a claim that was a specious even then – was necessary to try and close the deal with the public. When one party dictates every term of a massive reform effort, the inevitable result is what we’re seeing today.
Which bring us to a related talking point: Embedded in one of the most painful misinterpretations of the Federalist Papers you may ever read, James Downie of the Washington Post writes:
Here are the facts, Republicans: The legislative branch passed the Affordable Care Act. The executive branch signed it into law. The judicial branch upheld it as constitutional. The American people voted to reelect the president who championed it. Since the act was passed, Americans who favor and/or want the law expanded have consistently outnumbered those who oppose the law. And now Americans are already clearly opposed to Republicans’ shutdown tactics. If this were a game, we’d call the result a blowout.
No doubt many of you may quibble with Downie’s assertion about the law’s popularity, but generally speaking he’s right — and none of it matters.
DOMA passed with a 342–67 margin in the House and a 85–14 margin in the Senate, yet it was consistently challenged in the courts and by politicians. Citizens United was found constitutional and almost immediately the president attacked the Court. (As you know, some decisions are more sacred than others.) Americans twice elected a president who championed the Iraq War and yet progressives never stopped opposing it. In 2001, No Child Left Behind passed the House by a 384–45 and the Senate 91–8 margin. Yet, almost immediately liberal groups, and soon after elected officials, began their attempts to dismantle it.
Democrats had every right to engage in those pursuits. In fact, it’s healthy that they did. Health-care legislation isn’t chiseled into stone tablets and it’s not enshrined in the Constitution. The entire Obamacare legislation was a “concession” by conservatives. So even if Republicans tactics are unwise politics, trying to renegotiate and undo the majority’s will is not unprecedented. And to argue about what’s going without perspective is unrealistic.