Ezra Klein reminded us today that centrists face a difficult balance act.
On the one hand, most centrist Democrats are that way out of political necessity – they are in swing districts and must appeal to voters from the other party to survive. Hence, they resist things like Obama’s healthcare and energy initiatives and try to water them down, in the hopes that “compromise” and “bipartisanship” can grab them the swing voters they need to win re-election.
Yet, if the Obama plan fails to pass, his approval ratings and that of the Democrats will fall. And as we are repeatedly reminded by the pundits, swing districts are the first to fall in any election, especially if there is a distinct swing against a political party.
And has been noted elsewhere, the districts most likely to benefit from healthcare reform by boosting the ranks of the insured and improving health generally are… rural and southern districts most often inhabited by centrist Democrats.
So even though watering down the healthcare bill can give them bipartisan street cred with special interest groups in their districts, centrist Democrats and their constituents should actually be rooting for a successful reform effort – both for the policy benefits and the extra shielding a more popular Democratic Administration can provide.
This is not a difficult dilemma, or some kind of political paradox to solve. Republicans have already solved it by becoming the party of “no” no matter what – they see only upside in Obama’s “waterloo”, most especially because their affluent suburbanites don’t care for the bill and their conservative base won’t abandon them over on issue.
Why can’t the Democrats learn the lesson from the opposite perspective? Their poorer voters need the bill desperately, and swing voters won’t be swung by one issue alone.
It’s pretty simple, really.