Thursday, March 25, 2010

Health Care and the Political Future

The health care legislation that President Obama signed into law yesterday tilts American social policy in a more just and progressive direction that should bear fruit for months and years to come. Equally important, however, is the conservative reaction to the bill. In their fury at Democrats who voted for the bill, conservatives will alienate the very moderate Democrats that the Republicans might want as allies in the future.

Take the death threats against Bart Stupak.

Or Kathleen Parker's column calling Stupak a "backstabber."

Their single biggest consequence will be to remind politicians like Stupak that, for all their differences with their fellow Democrats, they have more friends in the the party of Obama than they do in the GOP or the Tea Party movement. That cements the opposition to the Republicans--a good thing for Democrats, but a bad one for the GOP.

As E. J. Dionne points out, Stupak in the end voted for the bill because to vote against it would have derailed health care reform--a cause that is big enough to include opponents of abortion who also value improvements in health care.

Dionne's thinking reflects the kind of broad-minded pragmatism necessary to sustain a Democratic majority. The Republicans and Tea Baggers who attack Stupak do not display the same cast of mind in support of their own cause.

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