The XX Factor

Health Care Reform Doesn’t Cover Shooting Yourself in the Foot

The closest I’ve ever come to buying a political T-shirt was back in 2000, when I was tempted by the ” Sore Loserman ” play on the Gore-Lieberman logo. It was a playful rebuke to those who wavered between claiming that George Bush was a stupid chimp and that he was nefariously genius enough to steal an election. I have been thinking a lot about sore losers as I see some of my fellow conservatives stooping to acts that are clearly beneath them in response to the health care law.

Don’t get me wrong, I sympathize. (And, no, I’m not angling for invitations to Beltway dinner parties .) The health care bill is a monstrously expensive piece of legislation that will cost more than what we were told ( even by its own math ), that was acquired through sleazy backroom deals , that will have a terrible cost for businesses and will create all kinds of havoc with already nightmarish state budgets , and that was ultimately secured by a meaningless executive order . I don’t like it either.

But the way to respond is not to park a coffin in front of Russ Carnahan’s home (I don’t care if that was a peace vigil) or cut propane lines at Tom Perriello’s house or throw bricks through Louise Slaughter’s office window. (Kind of makes it hard to complain about someone shooting at Eric Cantor’s office or threatening Jean Schmidt, no?)

You know what happens when you do that? Instead of covering the angle that the health care plan did not, as promised, provide that children with pre-existing conditions could get coverage on Day 1 or reporting that the IRS gets $10 billion to hire 16,500 agents to make sure you’re buying insurance or reporting that Nancy Pelosi has an 11 percent favorable rating , the networks are covering the crazy health care haters who are threatening violence.

It’s not just distracting. It’s also empowering to your opponents. As Anne Applebaum pointed out in Slate , ” nasty parties don’t win elections .” The Republicans, if they can get their act together, have a tremendous opportunity in the fall. There are some energetic politicians with great ideas going after some of the more entrenched pols in Congress. (Daniel Gross cautions that an improving economy might help the Dems instead of the GOP, but his caveat that lingering high unemployment and a bad housing market might hinder perception of the recovery is an important one, I think.) If the health care law is as bad as conservatives believe it is, it will get sorted out in courts ( at least 15 states are already pursuing legal action). In the meantime, remember that people do not like this Congress or this legislation . Let those facts speak for themselves and quit drowning them out.

Photograph of Republican Whip Eric Cantor by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News.