Democrats as a rule aren’t very good at the political loyalty thing, certainly not as good as the Republicans are.
Often that’s a good thing. The refusal of George Bush to rein in the excesses of the Republican-controlled Congress, and the refusal of the Republican Congress to do the same with Bush, in the end did long-term damage to both the country and the party.
On the other hand, party discipline does help a lot when you’re trying to get things done. If the Republicans had 60 votes in the Senate and a healthy margin in the House, as the Democrats now do, you can bet they’d be pushing through their preferred programs with a lot more dispatch and efficiency than Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have managed so far.
For that reason, Republicans have been pretty foolish to talk openly of their desire to halt health-care reform as a way to “break” the Obama presidency and make it his Waterloo, as Sen. Jim Demint said the other day. GOP Chairman Michael Steele and Newt Gingrich have chimed in too, with Gingrich suggesting that health care reform “could be the bill that drags his whole presidency down and they look back on it and suddenly the whole thing is unraveled.”
That’s just the kind of talk that could rally Democrats to Obama’s side. Preserving Obama’s image of strength was clearly part of the party leadership’s calculation in drumming up votes in support of the his veto threat on the F-22, and that same dynamic will play out on health care as well. Even Democrats who have concerns about Obama’s approach — whether those concerns are heart-felt or more political in nature — have a lot invested in the president’s success. If he’s crippled this early in his term, congressional Democrats become crippled as well, and the Republicans have kindly reminded them of that reality.
That’s one reason I think that in the end, we’ll see a major reform bill passed.