Waterloo for the GOP

Why passage of Obama’s health-care plan is historically inevitable

There is a very good reason why Republicans are so determined to defeat President Barack Obama’s health-care plan. They know that tens of millions of people will benefit from the program and will therefore become supporters of the Democratic Party for decades.

This is what happened with Social Security, Medicare and civil-rights legislation. Democrats proposed these reforms and have received the political benefit many times over.

The passing of health-care reform will be even more disastrous for the Republicans because many of the people who will benefit are people from working-class backgrounds who occasionally are swayed by Republican appeals on wedge issues—such as gay rights or gun control—to vote for the Republicans. For years the Republicans have appealed to the disgruntled working class by saying, “The liberals have done nothing for you and now they want to let gays get married.” Once health-care reform is passed, tens of millions of people will be able to say, “Hey, the liberals got me health insurance.”

The Republicans will be finished.

At least South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint was truthful when he said that he wanted to defeat the health-care plan because it would be Obama’s Waterloo. He figured that if Obama was unable to give his constituents health care, then people would consider him a failure.

The real problem with DeMint’s analogy is that he doesn’t know history. By the time of Waterloo, Napoleon had already been defeated and exiled; he staged a brief comeback just as the Republicans have this summer with their absurd town-hall storm troopers.

The Republicans now have a huge problem. In order to really be declared the winner of the battle, they must completely defeat any reform. Any health-insurance reform along the lines proposed by the Democrats will greatly benefit millions of people. Some proposals, such as making it impossible to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions or offering subsidies so that small businesses and the self-employed can afford insurance, will be a great public-policy victory for the Democrats even if there is no public option. That’s why all of the talk of compromise has been a charade. When the final vote is taken, almost all Republicans in Congress will vote “no” regardless of the plan. They have to.

Some things in history are inevitable. In the spring of 1814, Napoleon was defeated and exiled. In the fall of 2008, the Republicans were defeated as the Democrats took both houses of Congress and the White House by large majorities. In February 1815, Napoleon returned to France and marched on Paris. For a period known as the Hundred Days he appeared triumphant, until his final defeat in Waterloo in June of 1815.

The Republicans have had their Hundred Days, and their defeat is inevitable, and will be marked when President Obama signs the health-insurance reform bill into law this fall.