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Dana Milbank: Health Reform and the Specter of Alf Landon

Roundup: Media's Take




[Dana Milbank writes for the Washington Post.]

"This is the largest tax bill in history," the Republican leader fumed. The reform "is unjust, unworkable, stupidly drafted and wastefully financed."

And that wasn't all. This "cruel hoax," he said, this "folly" of "bungling and waste," compared poorly to the "much less expensive" and "practical measures" favored by the Republicans.

"We must repeal," the GOP leader argued. "The Republican Party is pledged to do this."

That was Republican presidential nominee Alf Landon in a September 1936 campaign speech. He based his bid for the White House on repealing Social Security.

Bad call, Alf. Republicans lost that presidential election in a landslide. By the time they finally regained the White House -- 16 years later -- their nominee, Dwight Eisenhower, had abandoned the party's repeal platform.

Circumstances are different now, as Republicans, assuming the Democrats' health legislation clears the House this weekend, prepare to campaign this year and in 2012 on the repeal of health-care reform. But the ghost of Landon should spook them as they do so: The health-care legislation, if passed, won't be repealed, and the politics of repeal may not work out as well as Republicans expect. You wouldn't think that based on the headlong rush to demand a repeal even before the health bill becomes law....

There will certainly be ads this fall saying Republican Congressman X voted against tax breaks for small business and voted to deny Junior his life-saving treatments. These modest changes to the health system probably wouldn't be widespread and noticeable enough to limit Democratic losses at a time of 10 percent unemployment. But, at the very least, voters would see nothing to justify the Republicans' apocalyptic predictions.

Yet repeal still holds appeal, even to the likes of Mitt Romney, who as governor of Massachusetts created what the New Republic's Jonathan Chait calls "the closest thing to Obamacare in the United States." A poll by the Boston Globe and Harvard last fall found that only one in 10 Massachusetts residents favors a repeal of that program.

"The American people will not stand for this bill becoming law," Romney said this week. "The American people will be with us and they will throw those guys out."

That's what Alf Landon thought, too.
Read entire article at WaPo

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