Michael Erickson argues that, rather than showing a deaf ear to the cries of most Americans against the big government approach of “Obamacare,” its proponents in fact are pursuing a long term, political advantage, one that will more than make up for expected electoral defeats in November. As such, Republicans cannot hope to win, unless they provide an alternative, positive vision of their own.
In recent weeks, much has been made within conservative media circles of the apparent penchants of President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Pelosi, and company for political suicide. The argument is that, in defying the clear will of the American people by forcing through “Obamacare,” even if necessary by the most tawdry of Congressional procedural gimmicks, they are showing a cavalier disregard for their own electoral prospects in November.
There is certainly a strong, factual basis for the claim. Polls have been steadily turning against “Obamacare” since the “Cornhusker Kickback” and the “Louisiana Purchase” became common parlance. The old game of “pay to play,” which indeed has been a mainstay of legislative sausage making since the machinations of Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, is now open to public scrutiny and comment like never before possible – thanks in large part to the internet and twenty-four hour cable news. Given how President Obama from the start handed over the details of his own health care agenda to the likes of Reid and Pelosi, it was inevitable that the process would be consumed by legislative trickery, resulting in a loss of public confidence.
Republican victories in special elections in Virginia, New Jersey, and then, most surprisingly, in Massachusetts confirmed the polls, especially as each of these contests emerged as a virtual referendum on “Obamacare.” There is now a “perfect storm” brewing, one very capable of replicating, if not outdoing, the GOP takeover of Congress in 1994. Even Democrat spin does not pretend that this is going to be a typical, mid-term loss for the party occupying the White House.
Nevertheless, in spite of this cauldron, the Democrat leadership very defiantly presses ahead. There is no longer even the pretense of “fair play” or “listening to the voters,” as President Obama tries to win over votes in the House by offering trips on Air Force One, and as Speaker Pelosi brandishes every one of her carrots and sticks over the remaining few dozen “undecided” Democrat Congressmen. If the House manages to pass the Senate bill, then it will be done as a most crass exposition of legislative skullduggery. It will be the sheer triumph of sophistry over reason, realpolitik over statesmanship, and Washington insiders over the people. Even the victors will need to sweep their embarrassment under the rug and brace themselves for the onslaught come Election Day.
This is not a pretty picture, and yet it easily could have been avoided if indeed President Obama had pursued a sincere, health care summit with the Senate and House Republican leadership, in the aftermath of the victory of Scott Brown in the Massachusetts special election. If he had pulled a “Clinton,” by really reaching to the center and “triangulating” himself between the big government solution offered by the Democrats and the status quo presumably being offered by the GOP, then he could have forced both sides into a truly bi-partisan bill – one that would permit him then to transcend the old, partisan fray and recapture his role as the one, and indeed indispensable, agent of change. With some dare and imagination, he could have dismantled overnight the GOP surge accompanying Brown’s victory, thereby showing himself to be the master impresario on the Washington stage.
Instead, Obama dug in his heels, by only adding a few, non-controversial, and relatively unimportant, Republican ideas to his post-summit proposal. It was sheer window dressing, and even the mainstream media could not suggest otherwise. In the aftermath, conservatives could not but ask: Is Obama simply not as smart as the “triangulating” President Clinton, who manipulated that Gingrich surge in 1994 into his own re-election two years later? Or is he allowing his ideological drive, one born in said cradle of Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, to overcome his better judgment?
The implication behind both questions is that President Obama, and the leftist, Democrat leadership on Capitol Hill, are making a mistake; but in considering this from a long term perspective, they are appearing rather as the “fools” who don the stage in several of Shakespeare’s plays. They are knaves, to be sure; and, when we see Pelosi in particular bumbling her way through a press conference, there is no doubt a good measure of basic obtuseness as well. Still, I cannot but help see the upturned, sly smile, as the “fool” bespeaks a canny insight in his jest.
If “Obamacare” passes in any form, the Democrats in the short term will face certain obliteration; but, in the long term, they will have done more since both the New Deal and the Great Society to cultivate an overarching dependency class. In creating a system of permanently increasing taxes and deficits (once it becomes clear that the presently imagined manners of paying for this new system will be all too inadequate, especially after the first decade of its existence), this monstrosity will rape whatever financial independence the already overtaxed middle class may be able to muster. More importantly, it will diminish expectations among American consumers of health care, as they reconcile themselves to the inevitable rationing of care. Instead of aspiring for better and more, even in regards to so personal an issue as their own health care, they will become accustomed to having less; and, among the indoctrinated, they actually will see a moral “good” in such a condition. I cannot help but think of Orwell’s 1984, where the citizens of Oceania learn over time to regard their subsistence in squalor as a “patriotic duty” for the good of the “war.” The next thing we know, we shall have a Vice President tell us that it is our “patriotic duty” to pay higher taxes and to settle for less.
Let us be clear on this point. “Obamacare” cannot but fail, in terms of its own, underlying financial solvency; and this in turn will create a burgeoning demand for a “public option” as a “remedy” for the overtaxed employers and individual policy holders trying in vain to make a living under its conditions. Also, when the United States Supreme Court inevitably throws out as unconstitutional the mandate that Americans purchase health insurance, the argument will be that, absent a “public option,” there will be nothing to keep insurance companies in line.
Far from being a bumbling disaster, “Obamacare” will turn out in time to be a most grand, Machiavellian scheme. It will usher forth the socialist democracy for which said Democrat Party has been uniformly committed since Senator George McGovern and the “New Left” wrested power away from the “Old Guard” in 1972. Its proponents understand that, while Americans traditionally aspire to be free, in fact most of them will give up that freedom for the “protections” offered by an ever expanding government, if conditioned to see that they are unexceptional and that their best days indeed are behind them. When we are just another European style socialist democracy, and when most of us are content with that fate, then indeed the tyrants will have won. They know that; it is a key component of their Marxist playbook. That is why they are playing for keeps on this particular bill, in spite of the very real prospects of electoral obliteration in November.
Republicans alone stand between this agenda and the precipice. None of the “third parties” will be able to rise in sufficient opposition; and, in the end, even the loudest of street rallies cannot do more than slow the tide. But if the GOP is to be effective to this end, then it must do more than simply say “NO” to “Obamacare,” or merely offer up ideas that it knows all too well will go nowhere on Capitol Hill. It must not play politics as usual on this one, because if it does, then it will turn out to be as much an aid to that emerging tyranny as the Democrat Left.
Rather than be the party of “NO,” the Republicans must be the party of “YES” to an alternative, but compelling, vision of the future: YES to a free market based system of health care (rather than a perpetuation of the cartel system that prevails in the status quo), which would include a dismantling of Medicare as we know it in our time; YES to an economy of sound money and fiscal restraint (rather than that loose money, Keynesian worldview with which Republicans have been all too fond since the deficits of the Reagan years); and YES to an American exceptionalism – in health care as in all other industries and cultural aspirations.
We of the “loyal opposition” must be less loyal and more revolutionary. There is no better time than the present to rise to the clarion call of real change. If in our opposition to “Obamacare” we come to see ourselves in that light, as patriots of a noble, American landscape, not as subjects of a global world of scarcity, then the legislative affronts facing us today may have their silver lining.