Friday, December 18, 2009
The Pollyanna Syndrome
AIN'T POLITICS GRAND? Well, well, well. Aren't conservatives starting to sound cocky? Over in HotAir's Green Room, CK Macleod is grinning:
Purely from a political standpoint, this should be a time for celebration – watching the worst political leadership combine in modern, perhaps in all American history joining hands and leaping off the President’s “precipice.” If ever there was a time for “the worse, the better” rightwing Leninism, this may be it. Or, for those who prefer their references more pop culture-y, there’s always Dirty Harry (if it was good enough for Ronald Reagan, it’s good enough for me)...
Insert "Make my day" clip from Dirty Harry. Then an honor roll of triumphalists:
Allahpundit ties together several strands, then sums things up succinctly in a message to the Dems (if not quite as succinctly as Massachusetts Dem Michael Capuano): “Good luck in those midterms, champ.” William Kristol, whose idea inspired the earlier post on politically sane alternatives, provides a political play call – noting that Obamacare’s three main beneficiaries are Big Pharma, Big Government, and Big Insurance, while urging the Republicans to argue “1,000 times no”...
Insert quote from Jay Cost pointing out that these Big Three beneficiaries are ideal for any politician to run against. Next:
If these gentlemen are right, we can stop calling it Obamacare, Pelosicare, Reidcare, Idon’tcare, Whatevercare: The day it passes it will be Zombiecare.
The fiscal and perhaps other reckonings to come will likely require much more from us and our political system than merely avoiding the Obamacrats’ mistakes, but they have provided the negative blueprint for how to proceed to that hard business, and much of the material for construction – even if the Dems do themselves a favor and scrap this bill at the 11th hour. Do the systematic opposite of what they’ve been doing. That template may serve conservatives for a generation. [boldface added]
Even Michelle Malkin has got a fevah:
Social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, the GOP leadership, Sarah Palin’s heartland supporters, conservative think-tank intellectuals, D.C. and Manhattan conservatives, Big Business and small-business conservatives, Joe the Plumber conservatives, and every stripe and flavor of conservative in between are all united against the Democrats’ proposed government takeover of health care. All.
It’s the Left, not the Right, cracking up. It’s the party donkey, not the elephant, now in a rabies-crazed frenzy...
House Democrats are blaming Senate Democrats and the White House for the legislative meltdown. The Nobel Peace Prize winner-in-chief himself has come under fire. Democrat Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin carped that “the Obama administration is sitting on the sidelines.” Democrat Rep. John Conyers of Michigan accused the White House of selling out to the insurance industry.
It all feels very 1990s – the period between 1992 and 1994, specifically – when liberals smugly declared the premature death of the GOP only to be walloped by the midterm conservative backlash. The ruling majority got greedy, overreached, and lost touch with average Americans. With the support of the public, Republicans united to slay Bill Clinton’s stimulus monstrosity and Hillary Clinton’s health care monstrosity...
One major difference now is the vast proliferation of alternative media – through Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Fox News – that has facilitated the spread of information about Democrats’ big government designs and given rise to Tea Party activism. The Right’s ability to change the narrative is greater than ever. The Democrat crack-up reminds us that there are no fait accomplis in politics. Political coroners, take heed.
I don't object to some modest optimism. We all need to believe that defeat can be turned eventually into some kind of victory. But I just want to sound a strong cautionary note. The notion that "If ever there was a time for 'the worse, the better' rightwing Leninism, this may be it" is absolutely dead wrong. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
It's sheer giddiness to think that it's somehow better for conservatives if the Democrats succeed in passing this truly horrendous healthcare bill. Madness, in fact. Yes, the Dems will experience huge losses at the polls in 2010, but even the rosiest of all possible electoral scenarios is nowhere near rosy enough to undo the damage the bill would cause. The Republicans could retake the House, but not by the majority the Democrats presently hold. It's less likely, though remotely possible, that Republicans could retake the Senate. However, there's no way on earth the Republicans could command the 60-40 majority that has made possible the currently imminent hijacking of one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Which means that there's no way to get to the magic number that would be required for repeal.
That's why Democrats in the House and Senate are prepared to commit political suicide to pass this bill in the first place. If any bill passes, the federal bureaucracy will permanently control a huge new chunk of our lives and liberties.
Think about that. Some damage control could be accomplished certainly. Fearful Democrats might be bludgeoned into passing new legislation that would effect tort reform, undo the federal funding of abortion, eliminate some of the excesses of taxation, Medicare cuts/rationing, and add some much needed oversight on bureaucratic tinkering with the doctor-patient relationship. But the sea change in the nature of healthcare decisionmaking will stand. The federal government will remain the central power in determining what constitutes acceptable health insurance and what medical treatment and procurement policies will govern the behaviors of doctors, hospitals, drug companies, and insurance plans. That's not just the camel's nose under the tent; it's the whole camel. Costs will rise the way they always do under government control, and the quality of service will decline in the way we're all used to when the government is involved -- e.g., the Post Office, the DMV, and those federal professionals who handle airport security checks. Profit will be steadily driven out of the healthcare marketplace and with it the innovations that have made this country the worldwide leader in the advance of medical technology.
This not a time to feign outrage at the monstrous bill rocketing toward corrupt, extorted passage in the congress and then wink at each other when the Democrats cripple their own electoral prospects by jamming it down our throats as the law of the land. If they pass this bill, they win a giant victory and all of us, the citizens of the United States, are the losers. Our lives will be shorter, less free, more embroiled in paperwork and red tape, and both more expensive and infinitely more humiliating and oppressed.
I can't conceive of any November 2010 electoral outcome that can compensate for such catastrophic real world results.
This is not the time to crow, or gloat, or wink, or pat each other on the back over Dem dissension and stupidity. It's time to redouble our efforts to DEFEAT THIS TYRANNICAL TAKEOVER OF THE MOST PERSONAL PART OF OUR INDIVIDUAL LIVES.
Screw the 2010 elections. Defeat this bill.
UPDATE. CK MacLeod responds to this post at Hotair.com. It's a well argued piece, and I don't disagree in principle with most of his future tactical points, although I have an overriding objection and a related dispute with his close:
If Obamacare, on its own terms or as implicated in approaching fiscal catastrophe, remains anywhere near as unpopular over the coming years as it is now, there is no fundamental reason why it can’t be rescinded – piece by piece or all at once. I therefore remain convinced that the proper response by conservatives to its passage cannot and must not be despair – certainly not yet, certainly not while a popular wave against the prime perpetrators is rising, and not while the tools of democratic self-government are still within reach.
I can see why Instapunk and others might feel justified in calling me or anyone else out for unwarranted optimism as we stand on the Obamic “precipice,” but in my opinion defeatism and pessimism are far worse responses. This is a moment for sober judgment, and for confidence in one’s own beliefs and analysis, whichever best keeps you in the fight. It’s a moment to decide whether our message to the Obamaist progressives is going to be: “You win -- we give up” or “We’re coming after you, and getting rid of your laughable, embarrassing, and repugnant health care bill (presuming you ever get around to passing it) will just be the beginning.”
All I said was that we shouldn't treat passage of the bill as any kind of good news. It isn't and wouldn't be. I detect that MacLeod is actually agreeing with me on this point. I never suggested that if the bill were passed, the appropriate conservative response should or would be, “You win -- we give up.”
AFTER the fort has fallen, you immediately begin planning to retake the fort. But when you are still defending the fort and the ramparts are under fire, you don't grin knowingly at each other and say, "Boy are THEY in trouble if they dare conquer this fort!" Who in his right mind of those engaged deeply in the fight would say that? You could call it a timing issue. Yes, today Dunkirk is remembered for the heroic, largely civilian response that rescued the core of the Brit army from annhihilation at the hands of Hitler's troops early in World War II, an extraordinary, almost miraculous turn of events that was indispensable to the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. But I very much doubt that the outmanned troops trapped and facing capture or death at Dunkirk winked at each other said, "Those Nazis have really stepped in it this time. We've got'em right where we want'em."
It would have been infinitely better if the British expeditionary force had defeated the Germans in France instead. Dunkirk wouldn't have had to be an inspiring story. The Battle of Britain might not have happened. The atrocious losses of the American B-17 bomber groups who had to fight Germany from across the channel wouldn't have been so atrocious. D-Day and its appalling casualties wouldn't have been necessary at all. In reality, Dunkirk was a military catastrophe, not a clever public relations coup for drumming up mythic evidence of Hitler's doom.
I'm not beating up on MacLeod here. I can see that we don't differ much at all on policy. My honest disagreement with him is that I think we must fight the bill with every weapon in our arsenal until the battle is finally and irreterievably lost. Then we immediately go to work mounting the counterattack. He seems to think we must accept our inevitable strategic defeat on the bill itself and buoy our spirits with dreams of the vengeance to come. But if any of those dreams cause us to fight a scintilla less hard against the imminent disaster of passage, I am opposed. Even after the rescue from Dunkirk, there was no guarantee that salvation of the Brit officer corps would succeed in building a new and larger army capable of defeating Hitler. And, in fact, it didn't. A "deus ex machina" was required -- the United States of America.
This time it's the United States of America that's being pushed into the sea. Our own civilians may mount a heroic rescue from disaster, and we'll be 100 percent on board with that. But there are no guarantees. And it would still be much much better if no rescue were required, no Battle of Britain, no Twelve O'Clock High, no D-Day, and no Battle of the Bulge to undo the harm of this one dastardly Blitzkrieg offensive.
And dare I point out that we have nowhere to turn but our own citizenry for rescue? There will be no "deus ex machina" to transform our patriotic sacrifices into final victory the way we did for the Brits.
I understand his position. But I disagree. Despite what happened last night, this bill still has not passed. Therefore, let us keep fighting.
UPDATE 2. CK MacLeod has responded to my response. That he materially misrepresents my response I won't bother with. He continues to believe that good conservative intentions can undo a bad bill en route to electoral and constitutional checkmate. That's the only point I'll deal with now. Here's what Sarah Palin is saying, and here's what she basing it on.
It's called booby-trapping the future. The Democrats are very very good at it. We still need to block this bill, whether it improves GOP prospects in 2010 or not. This isn't political calculus. It's simple arithmetic. Good news? It might still be possible. Would I rather have castles in air or a chance or a realizable hope? You tell me.