Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Symmetry

I’m working up a head of steam to do a long comment on "Obama at 200" (days, that is, since there was so much written about the magical FDR-like first 100 days Obama enjoyed), but here’s one large theme that is taking shape in my mind. Bush ran aground in his quest to reform Social Security with private accounts, despite a serious blitz for it in his second term. Private accounts are the Holy Grail for certain types of conservatives. But the political alignment of the planets against it is too powerful to overcome, as FDR intended.

The liberal Holy Grail ever since FDR has been national health insurance. But it appears on a knife edge right now, and may soon prove to be the liberal equivalent of Social Security reform--compelling in the abstract, impossible in practice. In other words, these two grand objectives of Right and Left may simply not be possible no matter how large the partisan majority in Congress--an unappreciated symmetry of the two poles in American politics today. (What about the obvious compromise?--Ed. Interesting question: no one anywhere has even raised the possibility in an op-ed.) Stay tuned: the next three months are going to be fascinating for students of politics (and citizens, too).

Discussions - 6 Comments

Steve, Do you think the Republicans can have the kind of majority in Congress that Democrats now have? If it is possible, the Republicans might be able to do more than you suspect.

The House healthcare bill has to be killed ASAP. I am no fan of street protest, but something like the tea parties might be a good idea for the August congressional break. The House bill is many times worse than the bailouts and stimulus bill that provoked the tea parties. Some more thoughts,

1. Obama sounds ghoulish and clueless when he reaches for rationalizations for denying care. Telling people to take painkillers for arrhythmias, and the weird tangent about bribes-for-tonsils creeped me out.

2. Yuval Levin made a great point over at NRO's the Corner the other day. Conservatives should talk less about governmemnt-run healthcare producing "rationing" and more about it producing artificial scarcities.

3. Obama came out in favor of a potential middle-class tax increase yesterday. Between that and the business tax that is in the House bill, conservatives should have pretty good political ammo if they use it wisely.

4. As much as possible, conservatives should tie Obama to the House bill. He is trying to run the same play as in the stimulus debate. He lets Congress debate and then comes in a the last moment swoops in and says "Well everyone has had their say, lets pass something" He can't be seen as above-it-all. The worst parts of the House bill should be portrayed as Obama's unless he specifically repudiates them.

5.A potential motto for conservatives on the Pelosi/Obama plan "Less healthcare, less choice, more taxes, fewer jobs"

6. The situation is Congress is such that there are not nearly enough conservatives to block government-run healthcare. This means it will only be stopped if enough Democrat (and some Republican) unprincipled oppurtunists (Susan Collins) conclude that voting for government-run healthcare would be too unhealthy for their careers. This means that public opinion has to move clearly against Obamacare and that this opposition is willing to act. That is why a mobilization can be useful. To the extent that there has been an all-hands-on-deck moment for conservative activism, this is it.

Yes, I think you ate correct. The GOP accomplished a lot between 1994-and 2006 with very thin majorities, which speaks to party and philosophical cohesion, which the Democrats don't have. If there is ever a GOP majority of 60 in the Senate and 250 in the House, then Yes, a lot could be done.

The asymmetry here between the parties on this score is an interesting topic for reflection. My original post was oriented toward the world as we have seen it, not the world as it might be. I do wonder if the Obama administration might be a last spasm of big government liberalism. I doubt it, but maybe.

Does Obama get credit for having "kept us safe" for these 200 days?

Yes, ren, yes I do. I will demand it of you!

"Health care" isn't comparable to Bush's modest Social Security proposals. It is far more radical and dangerous, even if one were to accept what I don't accept, that there was anything radical or dangerous about the Social Security reform Bush proposed. In addition, "health care" as envisioned by Obama and the Democrats is extremely coercive. Here, there is no parallel at all to the Social Security proposal.

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