If doing the same things over and over and thinking the result will be different is the proof of insanity, both of our parties should be committed right now. Or else they both have a death wish they haven't owned up to. Or perhaps the very words "healthcare reform" lead to a massive suspension of judgment that leads people to walk off cliffs.
When it happened the first time in 1993-1994 to that lovely young couple Bill and Hillary Clinton, you could write it off as an example of hubris plus rookie euphoria. When Barack Obama tried it again in 2009-2010 there was no excuse. And when the Republicans, already having seen two cosmic crackups in quite recent memory, tried it again (as they still seem to be doing), it gave rise to sheer astonishment and an abundance of worn-out clichés.
They're steering the liner straight into the iceberg. They're putting their hands on the stove after they saw others touch it and run away screaming. Perhaps they're giddy, having gained total control of the government, or perhaps they're secretly scared of having had so much power and want to go back to being bravely embattled. Or at this point, as Hillary Clinton once told us, it may make no difference at all.
Whatever the motive, the march to the cliff's edge and over it has a certain routine that proceeds in due order towards the ultimate end. The new president is urged to make as his priority something that has a chance to be popular, less controversial, and an easier win. Clinton was urged to try welfare reform; Obama and Trump to promote jobs programs that involved infrastructure. Showing a rare but intense need to suffer, they went for the most complex job in politics, tried to do it fast, and not properly. They both dismissed the need for bipartisan buy-in and also the long-standing rule of representative politics, that any big bill that touches the lives of most people must rest on a really broad base.
Worse, they did it not for its own sake but for all the wrong reasons: the Democrats because it would be a quick way to glory and their base wanted it; the Republicans because they said they would do it, and their base wanted it, and because they wanted revenge on the Democrats for the disgraceful manner in which they had pushed their bill through.
Since their motives were to just pass a bill and not to pass a bill that meant something, they ended up with bills that were mainly attempts to win votes from the minimum number of lawmakers needed for passage. By the time of the vote, their support in the polls had disappeared. Republicans, who had mocked Democrats in 2010 for pushing ahead on a bill whose public support was down in the 40s, last week blasted those among their own number who refused to vote for a measure whose approval rating was close to a robust 19 percent. A refusal to jump off a cliff isn't betrayal; it's self-preservation. They should be grateful the whole project failed.
Democrats were slaughtered in the midterms in 2014 because the plan that they passed with such self-congratulation disrupted the plans and the treatments of millions of people whose complaints then went viral in speeches and ads. The same fate would have faced the Republicans in 2018, who would have deserved it.
Repeating insanity has got to stop sometime. Perhaps it's just as well it stops now.
Noemie Emery, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of "Great Expectations: The Troubled Lives of Political Families."