It was worth it
Nancy Pelosi put out a statement during the night saying that the House of Representatives under her leadership “took courageous action” to save the country from economic catastrophe. I take it to mean she believes it was worth it to support President Obama on the stimulus bill and President Bush on the TARP bailout bill even though it cost her and the Democrats control of the House.
Significantly, she didn’t mention health care legislation, but I would include that as well: Passing it was worth losing the election.
Setting aside any nobler motive, it was worth taking the the risk of losing the election because the election was going to be lost anyway. In reporting a pre-mortem for National Catholic Reporter last month, I looked into the work academics had done to build forecasting models for the House race. Some 47 Democrats represented districts that had been won by the Republican presidential candidates in both 2004 and 2008, while only six House Republicans were in a comparable position. Add to that a stagnant economy, and the Democratic loss of the House was inevitable, any number of political scientists would say.
I haven’t had the chance to see if voting against the health care bill saved any Democrats – it didn’t in the case of one Congressman whose district is close by for me – Michael McMahon of Staten Island, New York. And I doubt that inaction in the face of the crumbling economy would have been a good strategy for House Democrats. The stimulus did in fact create or retain many jobs. As Ezra Klein wrote for The Washington Post, the House Democrats failed as politicians, but succeeded as legislators.
So, to answer a question Ross Douthat posed on The Times Web site: Yes, it was worth it.