Bad Chess Players

This Steve Benen post is a wonderful example of how bad some Democrats are at the political game:

If it seemed as if the vast majority of Senate Democrats were acting with a stronger-than-expected commitment to getting health care done this year, it wasn't an accident. [. . .] Senate Republicans have been so irresponsible, so petty, and so exasperating, they turned Evan Bayh into a Democratic partisan? The same Evan Bayh who said, as recently as July, he wouldn't rule out supporting a Republican filibuster?

It's a reminder that the GOP caucus doesn't include especially good chess players. Jon Chait notes the larger context: "At the outset of this debate, moderate Democrats were desperate for a bipartisan bill. They were willing to do almost anything to get it, including negotiate fruitlessly for months on end. [. . .] A few GOP defectors could have lured a chunk of Democrats to sign something far more limited than what President Obama is going to sign. [. . .] But Republicans wouldn't make that deal. . . [. . .] It was an audacious gamble. They lost. In the end, they'll walk away with nothing.

This is a fanciful interpretation. The Senate essentially passed the Senate Finance bill, which was largely shaped by concessions to Olympia Snowe. For a party with only 40 members in their Senate caucus, what is remarkable is how much they GOP got without taking any heat for it.

Now for how badly Dems understand the political game, consider this from Benen:

[The Republicans] may, however, make significant gains in the midterm elections, especially if long-time proponents of health care reform decide that this health care reform fails to meet their expectations, and, instead of fighting for policy improvements, decide to just stay home.

(Emphasis supplied.) See what a big win it was for Dems? Republicans will win big in the next election because voters are stupid. Sheesh. Oh by the way, the promise is this is the first step towards reform. If the Republicans can stop reform in its tracks by frustrating FUTURE attempts at reform and making this bill the end of the game, how precisely did they lose the negotiations?

Here's a little secret for these foolish Village Dems - a big windfall for the insurance companies PLUS future insurance company support for fighting future reform efforts PLUS winning big in 2010 PLUS taking the health issue off the political table for the foreseeable future is a BIG WIN for Republicans, in terms of policy, but especially in terms of politics, which is what pols actually care about.Benen has written one of the most foolish and myopic posts I think I have ever read.

Speaking for me only

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    That was truly bizarre (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Dadler on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 01:55:57 PM EST
    Almost like he's living in an alternate universe. Up is not only down, it is sideways as well. I have no idea what he's talking about, or why he even thought it was rational.

    Bad cheese.

    Patzer (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Ben Masel on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 02:26:31 PM EST
    pat·zer  (ptsr, pät-)
    n. Slang
    A poor or amateurish chess player.

    Beyond clueless, Steve. (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by oldpro on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 02:30:35 PM EST
    Painful watching the Democrats from the sidelines...but not as painful as being a member of the party and trying to explain it away.  Been there.  Done that.

    No more.

    Checkmate By The GOP (5.00 / 1) (#31)
    by norris morris on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 09:21:05 PM EST
    The Democrats just got checkmated. Obama is oviously not a chess player. Basketball doesn't replace the skills needed in political strategy.

    Watching the ham handed Democrats behave like morons about GOP support was like watching a 10 year old beginner playing chess with Kasparov.

    Taking Snowe seriously was absurdly naive. The smoke and mirrors engaged by the White House has been shameful, but the reality is that it was obviously obvious.

    The spineless circus we've been watching will take many Democrats down for good reason. Their horrendous misalculations and unnecessary compromises revealed a pack of undisciplined weak losers. Plus we've learned that they'll sleep with anyone without even the basic ethics of street prostitutes.

    As a lifelong Democrat my anger is uncontainable and the only option left for us is  to organize towards creating better leadership.

    We are early in the game to have witnessed such a swindle and to have been suckered into voting for a cold eyed pragamatist who doesn't give a s**t
    about us. Rham pisses on women's rights as it's politically convenient  if he smells weakness, and Obama stays mum.

    Undoubedtly the Republicans see victory and they're old hands at skillful manouvering, so we can see many seats lost in 2010, and after the public gets a whiff of this stinker HC bill I beleive Obama will be a one termer.

    We need to find leadership and make our voices known beyond the blogs.



    This life-long Democrat didn't (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by oldpro on Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 04:45:30 PM EST
    vote for him.

    Good luck and best wishes on the leadership hunt...I'm too old and too tired to be of any help.  Besides, the bigger problem is the public...the voters...ignorance and the culture of celebrity.


    Ditto (none / 0) (#24)
    by cal1942 on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 04:39:07 PM EST
    For county and municipal offices, but for the rest.  No more.

    Not even local party for me (none / 0) (#25)
    by oldpro on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 04:47:24 PM EST
    any longer.  Individuals only.  My elected city Democrats are arrogant snobs, constantly picking fights with my county Democratic electeds.  Power games.  Hubris.

    No more.


    This post is along the lines of the (5.00 / 5) (#6)
    by MO Blue on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 02:45:37 PM EST
    argument used for liberal voters to support the most conservative Dems no matter how opposed they were to their stated positions. IIRC it went something like this:

    Once the Dems obtain the majority, that conservative Dem will become irrelevant because his conservative policies will never get a floor vote.

    How did that work out so far? FISA and Stupak, anyone.  

    checkmate (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by kempis on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:07:33 PM EST
    To belabor the chess analogy, I've been thinking the past few days that the GOP has actually maneuvered the Dems into a checkmate, a win-win for the GOP.

    If the bill were defeated, the GOP could crow.

    If the bill passes (which seems likely now), the GOP can run against it, pretending to be populists concerned about the burden of government-mandated private insurance.

    All of those concessions to get a bipartisan bill have amounted to a bill that is arguably more friendly to the industries than to consumers. The GOP/Liebermann negotiated the Dems out of a public option and Medicare buy-in, the two features that made the bill attractive to the public.

    People are simply not going to be pleased when their government tells them to write checks to Aetna and company, even if the government will pay for part of it. I find it hard to imagine that many working class households share Nate Silver's definition of "affordable."

    A public option would have made the mandate more palatable, primarily because people would trust service from a government nonprofit far more than they would a private insurer. And it would have been fiscally smart. But we know now that the will of the public and fiscal smarts matter less than the wealthy corporations--even to this White House.

    I just think the damage to this White House is going to be severe. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope so.


    The bill resurrects the GOP electorally (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Salo on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:27:43 PM EST
    Without being the crippling ideological victory a PO would have been.  

    So you are right it's almost a perfect bill for them. The threat of nationalization has passed and not they can defeat us in detail as we man the trenches to defend this frankenbill.


    Yeah (5.00 / 3) (#27)
    by cal1942 on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 04:59:20 PM EST
    I find it hard to imagine that many working class households share Nate Silver's definition of "affordable."

    Since many households are barely scraping by from paycheck to paycheck I wonder how many will end up paying the penalty that's now been raised to 2% of household income.

    The pols just doesn't know how bad off millions of households are.


    P.S. (5.00 / 1) (#10)
    by kempis on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:08:42 PM EST
    And of course the "bipartisan" bill is not bipartisan, so the Dems own it.

    Instead of using chess analogies... (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by EL seattle on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:29:15 PM EST
    ... or constantly beating the drum of how "historic" this bill is, I'd feel a lot more confident if some of the democrat/progressive leaders/hillfolk/pundits would describe their situation here in terms that could be compared to Utah Phillip's story of the moose-turd pie.

    UInfortunately, I'm not sure how many of those folks are familiar with that story these days.  I'm not even sure if many of them know who Utah Phillips was.

    More's the pity.

    What Dems get for fetishizing 'bi' partisanship (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Ellie on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:30:19 PM EST
    ... even to the extent that one sole Repug was enough.

    The Senate essentially passed the Senate Finance bill, which was largely shaped by concessions to Olympia Snowe. For a party with only 40 members in their Senate caucus, what is remarkable is how much they GOP got without taking any heat for it.

    Why would anyone resist this generous offer?

    The Dems hampered themselves with the double whammy of HAVING to pass a bill, no matter how cr@ppy, combined with an arbitrary deadline of Xmas. It told Repugs and DINOs at the outset they'd be rewarded for every obstruction and outlandish demand.

    Strangely, Obama's and his WH chatterers' logic behind keeping the Afghanistan escalation open-ended and not giving al Qaeda a specific timetable to abuse is something all Dems seem to understand.

    (Obama got the HC"R" bill he wanted.)

    It's hard to believe that (5.00 / 1) (#32)
    by Anne on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 09:58:08 PM EST
    things have not been aligned so as to ensure that the entrenched corporate interests can continue to hold sway over who does and does not benefit from any efforts to "reform" the system; you can call this chess or you can call it the survival of the business model, but regardless, it portends not a whole lot more than business as usual.

    And maybe something worse.

    My husband is lucky to have full VA coverage, but I'm nine years from Medicare, and I'm wondering how much longer I can afford to pay for private insurance - it is going up almost 20% for 2010, and I cannot bring myself to think about what lies ahead.  It's good insurance - if I were to take the insurance my employer offers, I would be paying as much, and getting less.  Go figure.

    This is really just an unbelievable mess, and I cannot adequately express my disappointment and anger that this golden opportunity has been squandered.

    This is the mirror image of (none / 0) (#1)
    by Pacific John on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 01:40:00 PM EST
    "It's always good news for the Republicans."

    The 40 GOP Senators were players in a process that elated Billy Tauzin, and they are the losers?

    It is a lot easier for Evan Bayh (none / 0) (#3)
    by MO Blue on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 02:01:11 PM EST
    to vote for legislation that was primarily written by and for the insurance and pharma industries and by Republicans. This bill should be right up his alley now that it has been stripped of any meaningful reform.

    For Evan Bayh (none / 0) (#26)
    by cal1942 on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 04:50:46 PM EST
    this is a great victory.  The health insurance and care industries dodge a bullet and are safe for years to come.  

    Campaign cash for Evan and maybe big rewards for Mrs. Evan.

    The Bayh family, a solid investment for the industry.


    What's the matter with Benen? (none / 0) (#7)
    by NealB on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 02:50:27 PM EST
    I don't get it. I've been reading him daily for the past year and a half since he took over for Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly, and he's usually an excellent analyst and writer. One of the very best; he reports on a wide array of topics fairly, and his reasoning is unassailable.

    His recent posts on the Senate health bill though lack his usual clarity. He didn't need to pick a side on this. I'm surprised he did, but now he's falling all over himself to justify it. Very odd.

    All the objectivity has gone out of the window (5.00 / 1) (#30)
    by suzieg on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 08:35:25 PM EST
    when it comes to Obama and his policies. In his mind we must support Obama at all cost because you cannot have the first african american president fail, otherwise there will never be another minority ever elected!

    The price of massive defeats in 2010 (none / 0) (#8)
    by Salo on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:03:10 PM EST
    Would have been worthwhile if a PO was started. Not so for this bill. I can cope with a GOP revival if there had been a real Democratic government for 1-2 years.  Then it wouldn't matter what the GOP did , we'd have boxed them in.

    Well then, wasn't the Civil Rights Act a great (none / 0) (#11)
    by steviez314 on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:22:46 PM EST
    win for the Republicans, politically speaking too?

    It eliminated the Southern Democrats, gave the Repubs the South, and gave us Nixon and Reagan.

    At least, at a miniumum, this bill says the government has the moral obligation to subsidize health care for those who cannot afford it.  Forget who gets the premiums, and even how they get financed.  The politics of that may not be good, but then the politics of helping poor people is never good.  But it's still the right thing to do.

    If the civil rights bill (5.00 / 2) (#15)
    by Salo on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:31:04 PM EST
    Gave blacks a quarter vote each   And gave the GOP the south you'd have a good analogy. Without the PO I suspect that this is going to a political liability and be inadequate as reform. Ateast the civil rights act was liberation. This bill has features of indentured servitute.

    UP to 20% (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by waldenpond on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 05:02:52 PM EST
    of your income to private insurers for 70% coverage of medical expenses.  Aaaahh, smell the freedom.

    Heh (5.00 / 3) (#16)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:33:50 PM EST
    Yep, this is comparable to the Civil rights bills all right. Especially on womens rights.

    What a joke.


    Besides (none / 0) (#17)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:34:56 PM EST
    I'm pretty sure Benen's argument was that this is a political and policy win for Dems.

    I'm pretty sure it wasn't. How about you?


    This bill establishes the principle that the (none / 0) (#18)
    by steviez314 on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:39:06 PM EST
    government will pay for poor people who now have ZERO health insurance to get health insurance and thus care.

    Helping poor people is never a political win, but I don't care.

    Are other parts of the bill bad policy?  We'll see, but this alone is a moral policy.


    Nope (5.00 / 3) (#20)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:56:20 PM EST
    THAT BILL was Medicaid. Passed 40 years ago.

    Also LBJ.

    You must be joking.

    Look, does this bill do some good? Certainly. Is it transformational? Not really? Is is REFORM? DEFINITELY NOT.

    I think you can argue for supporting this bill without making outlandish claims. Try it and see.


    I didn't say this was the Civil Rights Act of 2009 (none / 0) (#22)
    by steviez314 on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 04:06:40 PM EST
    My point was that whether something is good or bad politics is not always the score that counts.

    Much better (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 04:14:05 PM EST
    to try and argue that THIS BILL established taxing rich people to pay for insurance for poor people is pretty ridiculous when the heart of this bill is EXPANDING a program established 40 years ago.

    Indeed, that is the real weakness of this bill - it does not really establish anything to build on imo.


    Entrenchment (5.00 / 2) (#28)
    by waldenpond on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 05:01:28 PM EST
    This bill entrenches the private insurer system.  It will require legislation of the insurance industry to get costs down and I believe there is no chance of regulation.  Look at what the Dems are doing with consumer protection and financial market regulation.

    The only benefit for our family will be if dependents get to stay on their parents insurance until age 25 as he will have no access to medicaid for prescription coverage.


    Correct (none / 0) (#19)
    by Politalkix on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:49:31 PM EST
    Helping poor people and reducing deficits at the same time! Morally correct and fiscally responsible!

    Helping less well off people (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sun Dec 20, 2009 at 03:57:58 PM EST
    with progressive taxation is certainly an absolute good.

    The House bill is certainly better than the Senate bill on that score.

    As for reducing the deficit, some, sure.

    But if you think of this bill as a major deficit reducing vehicle, you will be disappointed.