Monday, June 26, 2017

Politics, physics and protests: Where Democrats and Republicans go wrong on the politics of healthcare and whining in public

I lecture students a lot about the "science" part of political science.  Science is a method, not a subject.  I teach its application to questions about politics.  That doesn't mean that the subject works the same way as, say Newtonian mechanics.  F=ma.  Nice, clean and simple.

Politics are messy and complicated.  Right now, Senate Republicans are maybe about to pass a bill that would repeal healthcare entitlements.  A major entitlement repeal has never happened.  The bill is very unpopular.  Democrats are flummoxed that the bill has any chance at all of passing.  The popular explanation right now seems to be that it is a consequence of the secrecy under which the bill has been drafted.  As I have explained before, that secrecy makes some strategic sense in order to manage intra-party tension, but that isn't a complete picture here.

Democrats have expected a natural uprising against an unpopular bill.  F=ma.  The bill is unpopular, so people rise up against it.  That ain't the nature of things.  Big movements take organization.  Organization takes leadership, etc.  Why haven't there been mass protests about the GOP healthcare bill, the way there were against Obamacare in 2009 and 2010?  'Cuz nobody has organized them.  It isn't the secrecy of the bill-- it is the lack of organization.  Democrats have counted on some political F=ma on an unpopular bill sparking mass protests to do the work for them, and that isn't what happens.  Instead, political opponents of the GOP bill are sitting around with their thumbs up their asses right now hoping that Dean Heller or the Senate parliamentarian decides to take their side, because if not, they're fucked, and not just by their own thumbs.

Of course, in 2010, all the protests in the country did absolutely nothing to stop Obamacare from passing.  They may have helped the GOP organize for the midterm, though, and there is some solid research that the ACA vote hurt the Democrats in the 2010 midterm.  See, for example, the paper by Brendan Nyhan and many co-authors called "One Vote Out Of Step?" (here is an older, but un-gated copy for those of you not on academic terminals).  That 2010 election was a GOP landslide of historic proportions, and by never giving up, the GOP is here now.

The Democrats seem to be convinced that if the Republicans go through with some version of "repeal-and-replace," the reverse will play out.  But, you know what?  There's something missing.  Major protests from the other side.  Why?  Because the left is too fucking stupid to organize them.

Politics ain't physics.  There's no F=ma here.  Or, maybe there is, but somebody's gotta apply that fuckin' force.  It doesn't come out of nowhere.  (That, of course, is the problem with analogies-- you can always twist them around...)  One way or another, there is far more going on here than the secrecy with which the Senate has drafted its bill.  Republican opponents to Obamacare organized.  Democratic opponents to the Republican bill aren't bothering to do that.  If they sit around slack-jawed expecting political processes to occur like clockwork* without them actually having to do anything, then they are even dumber than Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  (Zing!)

Will the Senate actually pass anything?  I still don't know.  Dean Heller is a mystery-man here, and as I explained the other day, there are several historical reference points that lead in different directions for how this plays out.  I doubt that protests would do very much to affect the Senate right now.  Remember, they didn't do jack shit to affect the policy outcome in 2010.  What they did do, at least potentially, was help the GOP in 2010, and keep the party on track to where they are now.  That still matters a lot, though.  The Democrats don't seem to realize the importance of the long-game or organization.  They never really did.

*OK, that was another analogy.  So, I'm a hypocrite.


  1. I think you're missing the organization.
    Town Halls have been flooded....when they've bene held. (Republicans have simply cancelled many of them, or shifted to "moderated" forums like telephone town halls that screen questions)
    Try calling your MC and see if you get through. It's nearly impossible.
    It's not getting daily news coverage because, well, some other guy bit a dog 8 years ago. And, see above about the town halls getting cancelled. And there's also a Walker story here about how it's really nice to have all kinds of Koch money to organize shit versus just a bunch of disgruntled Dem staffers. And a story about how it'd be REALLY NICE to have a TV network dedicated to 24/7/365 promotion of your own bullshit.
    But, it's happening to the extent it likely can.

    1. I think you are missing something. If the protest *plans* were built around town halls that were canceled to avoid the protests, then the protests haven't happened. The left hasn't gotten its act together enough to adjust. In contrast, the tea party did a lot more than just disrupt town halls back in the summer of 2009. Aborted protests of canceled town halls don't impress me.

  2. Please tell me that you appreciate the acronym for McConnell's turd bill.

    It's really kinda perfect.

    1. You noticed too. I've been thinking about making a minor note of it here.

      Note to anyone bothering to read the comment thread: BCRA, which is the same acronym used for the campaign finance reform bill from 2002 (Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act). The 2002 BCRA was perhaps the most stupidly constructed bill ever, and the law mostly struck down by Citizens United.

    2. Though mostly upheld by....wait for it.....MCCONNELL vs FEC!

    3. Well, a lot of the parts upheld by McConnell v FEC were struck down by Citizens United, but it's still beautiful enough that one has to wonder if it occurred to Mitch at any point... Probably not. Only weirdos like us remember this stuff.

    4. I'm just pointing out that his name was on the case. He was the chief guy objecting to BCRA.
      Now, we've figured out it was only because he wanted to use the acronym for his own purposes!