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Robert J. Elisberg Headshot

The GOP's Risky Bet

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There's a whimsical irony in the Republican Party's effort to defeat health care reform by focusing on the non-existent claim that it will Kill Grandma.

It's that in their efforts to defeat reforming a disastrous health care system where 47 million Americans are without any insurance -- Republicans will end up doing a far more effective job in actually Killing Grandma than their most fevered fake nightmares.

Creating a problem worse than what one is complaining about is a Really Bad Idea -- especially when it's worse beyond any comparison, since the "Death Panel" problem doesn't exist.

But let's go further.

Those 47 million Americans without health insurance, that's about one sixth of the nation. How many do we think will be looking forward to voting for the party that blocked them from getting health coverage? (Hint: if you're given a bet with an "over/under" -- take the under.) So, simply on pure politics, this is a Really Bad Idea.

But let's go still.

Because the GOP is on record as being against health care reform. I mean, honestly, "We're the party against health care!" looks lousy on your resume. That's like being the party against Social Security. Or the party against Medicare. Or the party against Civil Rights. All of which were opposed by the GOP. The Holy Trinity of social issues. How did that work out for them? (Hint: there aren't enough shovels to dig them out of that hole.) Adding "we're against yet another social issue that will forever be beloved by Americans" to the list is a Really Bad Idea on the historical level.

But let's go even further still.

Because, you see, health care reform will pass. Really. Most Republicans in Congress understand there is a problem with the health care system, and it's related to the economy, and it has to be fixed, no matter their public stances lying about Death Panels or them trying to "get" President Obama. They know. But that's not the main reason it will pass.

It will pass because Democrats have the votes to pass it. In both the House and Senate. The 60 Vote Issue is meaningless. This is the important part: They Don't Need 60 Votes. If the 60 Democrats can't get enough Republican bipartisan support, how many believe that President Obama and the Democratic leadership will throw up their hands in defeat -- rather than use "reconciliation," where they need only 50 votes to pass what they want?

Democrats aren't going to let health care reform not pass. It's too important to the country's health, too important to the country's economy... and too important to the Democratic Party. If the worst happens, and Democrats can't get enough -- or any -- Republican support in the Senate, President Barack Obama will go on television and say,

"We tried to be bipartisan. We gave in on issue after issue Republicans insisted on, even though it weakened health care for you all, because we wanted to be bipartisan. But the Republican Party only wanted to block healthcare reform. But that isn't an option for America. America simply needs health care reform or our nation's economy and 47 million lives are at risk. And so, because Republicans refuse to support health care reform, despite all our bipartisan efforts, we will use "reconciliation" and Democrats will pass health care reform. And we all will benefit. If Republicans want to turn their backs on you, the Democratic Party won't. Just like we didn't turn our backs on you with Social Security, Medicare and Civil Rights."

And not only with health care reform pass, it will pass with many of the issues back in the bill that Republicans wanted out. Because there will be no reason to compromise.

So, trying to block health care reform is a Really Bad Idea on the pure reality of it.

But we can go even further than that.

Because even if all this is wrong, and healthcare reform doesn't pass, who do you think will get the blame for that? (Hint: "We Blocked Your Healthcare!" is a Really Bad PR slogan.) Make no mistake, Barack Obama will be hurt if healthcare reform doesn't pass. No question. After all, Bill Clinton was hurt by not passing it. But here's the thing: how did that work out for him? Oh, yeah, right. He got re-elected, and ended up with over a 60-percent approval rating.

So, either healthcare passes, and Republicans are the party against health care -- or health care fails to pass, and Republicans are the party that blocked health care. It's a lose-lose situation.

So, it's a really bad on idea on the pure logic level.

But ultimately, it goes even further.

Because when health care reform passes, even if Republicans weaken it, weak health care reform is like the old joke, "What do they call the guy who finishes last in medical school? They call him 'doctor.'"

Here's where it helps understanding history:

The first Civil Rights Bill of 1957 was weak, only about voting rights. But it got people accepting it. And in 1964, a landmark Civil Rights Bill improved things. And then the Civil Rights Bill of 1968 fixed even that. And by 2008... Barack Obama was elected president.

Even weak health care reform is still health care reform, and the floodgates will be open. And it will be a mark forever for the Democratic Party. And a body blow for the GOP -- the party forever on record against Social Security, Medicare, Civil Rights and health care for Americans.

And next probably, puppies.