November 22, 2008

Policy vs Power

Fifteen years ago, Bill Kristol famously wrote a memo* saying that Clinton's health care plan had to be stopped at all costs, because it would be so popular in the general public that Republicans would lose the middle class.  Steve Benen  has a piece in the Monthly this morning about the current plan to stop reform at all costs.   The key point to take away from this is they oppose universal health care because, in parallel with Social Security, it would be very effective policy, and therefore popular with the middle class and most Americans.

And therefore must be stopped.  

There could not be a clearer statement of where these people's interest lies.  They do not decide that they need to find a market based method that will be just as effective. They work as hard as they can to make millions of Americans are without health care, miserable thereby, and will be willing to vote Republican.

*December 2, 1993 - Leading conservative operative William Kristol privately circulates a strategy document to Republicans in Congress. Kristol writes that congressional Republicans should work to "kill" -- not amend -- the Clinton plan because it presents a real danger to the Republican future: Its passage will give the Democrats a lock on the crucial middle-class vote and revive the reputation of the party. Nearly a full year before Republicans will unite behind the "Contract With America," Kristol has provided the rationale and the steel for them to achieve their aims of winning control of Congress and becoming America's majority party. Killing health care will serve both ends. The timing of the memo dovetails with a growing private consensus among Republicans that all-out opposition to the Clinton plan is in their best political interest. Until the memo surfaces, most opponents prefer behind-the-scenes warfare largely shielded from public view. The boldness of Kristol's strategy signals a new turn in the battle. Not only is it politically acceptable to criticize the Clinton plan on policy grounds, it is also politically advantageous. By the end of 1993, blocking reform poses little risk as the public becomes increasingly fearful of what it has heard about the Clinton plan.

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