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Special Report

What Lesson Did Democrats Learn From Hillarycare Debacle?

It becomes clearer by the day that the Democratic Party learned the wrong lesson from its health care debacle 16 years ago.

Then, as now, a Democratic president pressed for a massive overhaul of the nation's health insurance system, similar in its complexity the one that passed last March.

Then, as now, critics attacked it as a government takeover. The bill back then was so unpopular that it never came to a vote. But it was a major issue in the 1994 midterm elections. Despite the absence of war and an unemployment rate 4 points below the current one, Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress.

The obvious lesson seemed to be that the public, having elected a president who ran as a centrist, was not ready for such a major liberal reform, at least not all at once.

But some Democrats believed that the problem was that they failed to pass the bill and if they had, people would have given them credit for the achievement and soon come to appreciate its benefits.

If that sounds familiar it's because that's what the Obama White House and Democratic congressional leaders thought when they tried for another massive overhaul. When it encountered strong public resistance they rammed it through.

Now, facing another midterm rout, they comfort themselves with the notion that it's just about the economy. But with companies preparing to drop health coverage right and left and majorities opposed to the bill, Democrats are burdened by more than the unemployment rate.