What will Republicans say if health-care reform passes? This is a question I've begun to ponder, since the things conservatives have been saying up to this point -- "death panels," reform is a "government takeover of
one-sixth of the economy" -- have been totally unmoored from reality. But if reform actually passes, those arguments won't have much of an effect. It's easy to make people afraid about an uncertain future, but it's much harder to convince them that the present they are experiencing is something other than what it is. Once people find themselves going to the same doctors and dealing with the same insurance companies, it will be hard to tell them their medical decisions are now being made by jackbooted government bureaucrats.
So how are Republicans going to shift from, in the words of Dick Morris, "Obama's plan is going to kill you" (yes, that's an actual quote) to "Obama's plan has turned your life into a living hell"?
I'm not really sure, but my guess is that Republicans will get extremely vague. They won't be able to talk about terrible things you are now experiencing in health care, so they're more likely to put it in broader terms -- too much government, the administration should have been concentrating on the economy instead, and so on. They certainly won't be talking much about the process by which health-care reform passed.
As Ezra Klein reminds us, the process by which Republicans passed the Medicare prescription drug plan in 2003 was about as corrupt and dishonest as it gets, yet today, seniors are pretty happy with their drug benefits, and few people remember the ugliness of the vote. It may take some time, but in the end all of the agonizing we've gone through over the past year will be forgotten, too.
-- Paul Waldman