Thirteen years after leaving the Senate, (and 11 years after his death), Daniel Patrick Moynihan won his most recent election last week in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, and he may win many more in the fall.
Great measures don't pass by narrow majorities, he told Hillary Clinton when she tried to sell health care, they pass by wide margins, or fail. He meant that big bills need public opinion behind them, or they are in danger.
Democrats ignored him in 2010, thinking public opinion didn't count, or could be turned around quickly. They were mistaken. Today, President Obama, his face lined, his eyes hollow, his hair and skin graying, is seen on small online shows begging the young to buy overpriced policies, and Democrats, scared witless by their loss of a House seat in Florida, are weighing three options to try to stave off disaster, none of which seem to hold hope.
Option one is to disown Obama and health care, but that would enrage the base, split the party, and do no good in most cases, as each of the senators up for re-election was the 60th vote for the bill.
Option two is to endorse the bill but promise to "fix" it, a hair-splitting move that seemed to have promise, until it sank Alex Sink. "Democrats, you need more than vague promises," the Chicago Tribune warned Friday. "You need to work with Republicans -- yes, Republicans -- to fundamentally redefine it." Yes, Democrats, you're going to tell your president that his law is so flawed that you -- and the Republicans! -- are now going to have to remake it completely. That surely should go.
And so, option three is to take a deep breath and embrace the disaster, as John Cassidy in the New Yorker says: "What about raising the stakes and defending the reform in its entirety as a historic effort to provide affordable health care coverage to tens of millions of hard-working Americans" who would otherwise be doing without?
You can defend the effort, but little beside it; as many more people have lost than gained coverage, the previously uninsured haven’t been buying and the young aren’t buying — which may doom it financially. And we know now that the bill had been crafted on purpose to tighten the screws on one of the most productive parts of society: the entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners who bought their policies on the individual market; who are solvent but hardly high-flyers, who are hit with a great deal of angst and anxiety, and to whom the additional cost of hundreds of dollars in their new monthly premiums is bringing them real fiscal pain.
Democrats, some of whom had to be forced to vote "aye" with a cattle prod, are understandably furious, but there’s not very much they can say. They can’t say it’s good, as the facts are against them, and they can’t say it’s bad either, as the question of why they voted for and then pushed it comes up.
The answer to this has just two explanations: They passed the bill without having bothered to find out was in it, and they trusted Obama, who lied. Neither speaks well of them and their party, but no other options present themselves.
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts — that was another of Moynihan's maxims, and the facts now are killing his party. It can wiggle and squirm in search of an exit, but there's not much it can do about that.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."