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When Democrats become Republicans and Republicans become conservatives

To put a finer point on my earlier post about the compromises in the health-care bill, check out this Kaiser News Network table comparing the Senate bill, Boehner's bill, and the bill that moderate Republican Lincoln Chafee developed as an alternative to Bill Clinton's legislation in 1993.

The Senate bill is almost identical to the legislation supported by moderate Republicans in 1993. Boehner's bill, by contrast, is far, far more conservative (and useless) than what moderate Republicans developed in 1993. Conversely, the Senate bill doesn't look anything like the Clinton plan itself, much less like the more liberal efforts to expand Medicare to all Americans. We've got a situation in which Democrats are essentially pushing moderate Republican ideas while Republicans push extremely conservative ideas, but because neither the press nor the voters know very much about health-care policy, the fact that Republicans refuse to admit that Democrats have massively compromised their vision is enough to convince people that Democrats aren't compromising.

By Ezra Klein  |  February 24, 2010; 1:03 PM ET
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The fact that Ezra, Matt, Nate Silver, and company engaged in non-stop efforts to rationalize the compromising every step of the way is conveniently omitted from this narrative. Nice airbrushing, dude!

Posted by: redscott | February 24, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Well that is because the Republicans have a much better media machine than the Democrats.

Remember a few years back when Republicans were saying they "create their own reality?" Well, they are only able to do this because the media lets them. If, instead of just playing he said/she said, the media actually started reporting the news, none of this would be possible.

Posted by: nisleib | February 24, 2010 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, I appreciate your efforts -- as guarded as they may be -- to point out what a colossal failure our media is at the basic task of informing people.

I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR this morning as their correspondent echoed GOP talking points without attribution or qualification. The most in-depth back-and-forth on the summit between anchor and reporter was on the shape of the table and whether or not there would be cushions.

Posted by: cog145 | February 24, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

This, then, begs the question of why this administration didn't start higher - something akin to the Clinton plan - and move to the "middle" with something like the House Bill with a public option?

Posted by: kchang4_99 | February 24, 2010 1:14 PM | Report abuse

Actually it was Linc Chafee's father John who was in the Senate in 1993. Lincoln Chafee joined the Senate in 1999 when he was appointed to replace his father.

Posted by: DCista | February 24, 2010 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Substantive malpractice / tort reform is in the 1993 Republican bill.

Substantive malpractice reform is non-existent in the Senate bill.

There are other differences of course.

Bottom line: Ezra is WRONG saying that the Senate bill is almost identical to the 1993 republican bill.

Posted by: RandomWalk1 | February 24, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse


Is there any talk of bringing the Medicare Buy-In back into play?

That seemed like a great idea to me.

Any chance the public option discussion is a way to bring Medicare Buy-In back int play as a "compromise" play?


Posted by: JERiv | February 24, 2010 1:19 PM | Report abuse


So you're saying that Democrats just need to include substantive malpractice reform to secure Republican votes? You believe this? Really?

Posted by: eleander | February 24, 2010 1:30 PM | Report abuse


In retrospect do you think it was a mistake to allow a video of Jacob Hacker (and other liberals) to get on YouTube and reveal to every American in the United States exactly what liberals would do on healthcare were they ever to successfully obtain the White House and a Super Majority in the Congress?

In seems like the cynicism that was triggered when Americans openly saw partisan duplicity center-stage led to this whole era of polarizing & partisan politics.

Posted by: FastEddieO007 | February 24, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse

What kchang4_99 said. Progressives were screaming this from the rooftops (not that anyone in the MSM noticed, because their heads were so far up repiglican a$$es, their ears were covered). In an effort to be all bipartisany, Obama gave away the store before even beginning to bargain with the opposition in his own party and the repiglicans. For all of Bush's faults (to numerous to list here), he didn't bargain with himself, before proposing things to congress.

Posted by: srw3 | February 24, 2010 1:34 PM | Report abuse


Yes, obviously, YouTube videos of Jacob Hacker are clearly to blame for the partisan atmosphere in DC. When all of America saw those (which, according to YouTube's count, about 4000 people), the jig was up on John Chafee's 16-year push to socialize medicine!

If only Democrats would just compromise on the public option, we could put this era of polarizing politics behind us!

(non-snark: the capacity of right-wingers to whip up these alternate realities continues to astound me)

Posted by: eleander | February 24, 2010 1:41 PM | Report abuse

srw3 - I get where you are coming from, but tend to disagree.

First - Single payer was never on the table, not even during the primary season. It was a non-starter. I wish that were not the case, because single payer would be the easiest and most cost effective system, but it is.

Second - Congress crafted the bill. Obama didn't, "Gave away the store before even beginning to bargain..." Now many people say Obama should have forced Congress to do his bidding, or at least given them more input, but I tend to think Obama has a much better idea how to move legislation through Congress than the vast majority of his critics do.

Posted by: nisleib | February 24, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Also, how could YouTube videos of Jacob Hacker be a mistake? Does the White House dictate YouTube content?

The complete paranoid incoherence of 21st century Republicans should tell you why they're incapable of supporting legislation they would have happily supported 17 years ago. They're just insane, they are fighting a massive fascist conspiracy in their broken little minds, and they simply have no concern for what's happening here in reality.

Posted by: eleander | February 24, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Associating extreme leftists to the entire Democratic Party is like associating extreme rightists to the entire Republican Party.

Pity, We could have accomplished something other than hating each other over nonsense.

Posted by: trident420 | February 24, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Hello? Obama gave away the store.
"Several hospital lobbyists involved in the White House deals said it was understood as a condition of their support that the final legislation would not include a government-run health plan paying-Medicare rates...or controlled by the secretary of health and human services. 'We have an agreement with the White House that I'm very confident will be seen all the way through conference', one of the industry lobbyists, Chip Kahn, director of the Federation of American Hospitals, told a Capitol Hill newsletter...Industry lobbyists say they are not worried [about a public option.] 'We trust the White House,' Mr. Kahn said."

Posted by: obrier2 | February 24, 2010 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for this post, Ezra. It explains why so many non-Republicans will stay home in November.

Posted by: AZProgressive | February 24, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse


Don't know what would happen if they added malpractice reform to the final bill. All I can say is that Ezra chose the wrong words when he compares the Senate bill with the 1993 bill. They are not almost identical, unless you think malpractice reform and other differences are trivial.

Posted by: RandomWalk1 | February 24, 2010 3:01 PM | Report abuse

This reinforces one of my main perceptions, that the parties have moved to the right since the 1980's. The Republicans have become a party of reactionaries, right-wingers, neo-cons and quasi-fascists. The Democrats have been dominated by moderates, who would have been moderate Republicans in the 1980's and early 1990's. Obama ideologically is far closer to a typical moderate Republican of twenty years ago than a contemporary progressive Democrat.

Unfortunately liberals and progressives have become a small minority among Democrats in Congress. The Democratic party has lost its progressive soul.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | February 24, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

@ nisleib "Congress crafted the bill. Obama didn't"

Obama didn't craft the language of the bill, but he put forth the goals for the bill and the goals gave away the store. He didn't reach for fundamental change in the health care system, just insurance reform. If he had asked more of congress, the leadership would have more to bargain with and the repiglicans and conservadems couldn't do as much damage as they ultimately did.

Posted by: srw3 | February 24, 2010 3:20 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love nisleib's (and Ezra's, and Matt's, and Nate's) Bystander Theory of the Presidency where Bad Things can be blamed on others while Obama can claim credit for anything good that happens. It's like Obama = The Hidden Face of God, where we celebrate a merciful providence and otherwise blame the bad men who thwarted God's will. Priceless!

Posted by: redscott | February 24, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse


"Obama = The Hidden Face of God"

You must be a newcomer, so no biggie that you have posted without any apparent knowledge of Ezra Klein's past entries on health care.

Ezra Klein has stated very clearly that there is a perception in Congress that the White House could and should have stepped in to lead at critical times. Such reporting here has appeared under clear 'failure of leadership' headlines. Sorry you missed that writing.

At the same time, Ezra has also pointed out that the House could pass the Senate bill within one working day, and Obama would then have a comprehensive HCR bill to sign. So the Congressional leadership must bear responsibility if no bill is passed.

Obama needs to show leadersip, and in the end this is a legislative branch responsibilty. Both are true, and Ezra has pointed out both of these truths.

Posted by: Patrick_M | February 25, 2010 3:36 AM | Report abuse

Maybe that's apples and oranges...
moderate Republicans of 1993 and of 2010
The biggest flaw in all of this is
the PR. The WH should hire a really good sales team (not political advisors-product advisors). Or save money and listen to FDR explaining how banks work on the radio.
He spoke to the citizens, the Americans listening so lovingly and if they were ALL literate 12-year-olds. (3/12/33 1st Fireside Chat)
Banking is pretty complex...just like health policy, health insurance, etc.

"I want to talk for a few minutes to the people of the United States about..."how health insurance works...
Pretend you have to make Glenn Beck understand.

Posted by: dcunning1 | February 26, 2010 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Would adding in malpractice reform...with teeth, put the Republicans in a conundrum
when the bill goes for a final vote? Gain votes?
More attractive like the jobs bill?
Any way to box them in kind of like the summit invite?
Add a Medicare buy-in after passage possible?
(I'm an optimist.)

Posted by: dcunning1 | February 26, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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