Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Endgame

Here's what's clear: the success of President Obama's second term will come down to the next few months of 2013 and early 2014 in the form of immigration reform, the success of the health care law, and the rising economy. There probably will be no grand bargain on the debt (thank heavens), tax reform is a long way off, and the Republicans don't believe enough in real science to have a discussion about energy and the environment. So we'll have to be happy from small victories.

The health care law is the most important. The GOP has staked its past, present and future on the law's failure, (and has threatened to shut down the government rather than accept it) but that's probably not going to happen. Will there be problems? You bet, and the right wing will loudly report each and every example of someone who has to pay more, or accept coverage that they don't need or want, or how doctors and hospitals are suffering, but in the end, the law will cover more people and result in a healthier society.

It might even result in more people finding less costly insurance through the exchanges than through their employers. That would be a tremendous coup because then businesses will be relieved of the pressure of covering their employees and people will not have to stay in terrible jobs simply for the benefits. I don't see this happening quickly, but if the market (you remember the market. This is a law all about the market.) makes it less expensive to buy from the exchanges, then that's what people will do. betting against health insurance is a losing proposition.

Immigration reform will probably not pass the House in its Senate version, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that a more comprehensive bill than the House purports to disdain will come out of the legislature. The Republicans can talk tough, but I do think that they see the electoral graffiti on the wall and understand that passing nothing will do them great harm. Perhaps the gerrymandered districts will allow them to keep the House, but that's a flimsy wall to hide behind for a party that's lost the popular vote in all but one national election since 1992.

The Republican Party is clueless, but it's not, you know, clueless.

During the past presidential election cycle, I wrote repeatedly that the conservative wave was crashing and that the GOP would become dangerously radical. I hate to say that I was right, but we are now living in the extremist bubble and it's not going to pop for another two or four years. During that time we can look forward to more attempts at voter suppression, curbs on reproductive rights and a call to eliminate or severely cut back on social programs such as food stamps, unemployment compensation and Medicare. If the Democrats can hold the line against the tide, they can slowly turn the country back in a less dangerous direction. Then we can truly address the problems we have in a pragmatic, sensible manner.

Until then, we'll be playing defense.

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