The Future After Health Care

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Regardless of what you think about health care, tomorrow we wake up in a different political world.


Parties have passed legislation before that wasn't broadly publicly supported.  But the only substantial instances I can think of in America are budget bills and TARP--bills that the congressmen were basically forced to by emergencies in the markets.

One cannot help but admire Nancy Pelosi's skill as a legislator.  But it's also pretty worrying.  Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority?  Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn't want this bill.  And that mattered basically not at all.  If you don't find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances.  Farewell, Social Security!  Au revoir, Medicare!  The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected.  If they didn't--if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission--then the legislative lock-in you're counting on wouldn't exist.  

Oh, wait--suddenly it doesn't seem quite fair that Republicans could just ignore the will of their constituents that way, does it?  Yet I guarantee you that there are a lot of GOP members out there tonight who think that they should get at least one free "Screw You" vote to balance out what the Democrats just did.

If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don't complain that it's not fair.  Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard.

But I hope they don't.  What I hope is that the Democrats take a beating at the ballot boxand rethink their contempt for those mouth-breathing illiterates in the electorate.  I hope Obama gets his wish to be a one-term president who passed health care.  Not because I think I will like his opponent--I very much doubt that I will support much of anything Obama's opponent says.  But because politicians shouldn't feel that the best route to electoral success is to lie to the voters, and then ignore them.

We're not a parliamentary democracy, and we don't have the mechanisms, like votes of no confidence, that parliamentary democracies use to provide a check on their politicians.  The check that we have is that politicians care what the voters think.  If that slips away, America's already quite toxic politics will become poisonous.
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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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