Hilzoy catches U.S. News columnist and registered wingnut James Pethokoukis telling a truth that might more prudently have been left unspoken: that conservatives fear a national health care plan not because it would fail, but because it would succeed and make voters more favorable to government social programs in general, and to liberals and Democrats for addressing the problem. Pethokoukis quotes with horror an analysis of the impact of the NHS on British politics:
After the Labor Party established the National Health Service after World War II, supposedly conservative workers and low-income people under religious and other influences who tended to support the Conservatives were much more likely to vote for the Labor Party when health care, social welfare, education and pro-working class policies were enacted by labor-supported governments.
And he quotes with approval the conclusion of Cato’s Michael Cannon:
Blocking Obama’s health plan is key to the GOP’s survival.
This is the moment when you wish there were a liberal version of right-wing talk radio and Faux News. Limbaugh, Hannity & Co. have the capacity not only to bring this sort of gaffe committed by anyone vaguely on the left to the attention of their own audience but to force discussion of it into the mainstream media. Wouldn’t it be great if the Sunday talk shows were full of discussions of whether Republicans plan to oppose the Obama health proposals because they fear that, if the proposals were enacted, voters would love them?
As Steve Benen points out, there’s good precedent here. The desire to deny Democrats an achievement was an explicit motivation for Republican opposition to Hillarycare.
It’s a cruel reality of politics that voters are much more willing to believe charges against individuals and parties they already dislike, leading to the maxim “Never kick a man who isn’t down yet.” With the Republicans about as unpopular as any party has ever been, the notion that they’re trying to kill health care reform precisely because it would work is one that could easily take hold among the voters, thus making opposition to the plan an act of political suicide.