Don’t despair about ObamaCare

posted at 12:30 pm on December 20, 2009 by CK MacLeod

In a post featured in the HotAir headlines (and headed by a music video clearly intended to devastate the souls of all foolish enough to click), blogger Instapunk has used my “Go Ahead, Make Our Decade” post (also at the Green Room here) as a prime example of “Polyanna Syndrome” among conservatives, characterized in particular by the belief that the ongoing “political suicide” of the Obamacrats, most vividly on display in the Health Care legislation working its way through the legislative intestinal tract, may provide an opportunity far more important than any damage they have done or will yet do.

I referred to this idea in passing as “‘the worse, the better’ rightwing Leninism.” Instapunk calls it “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.

Psychological diagnosis notwithstanding, Instapunk comes fairly close here to conceding my initial point – that (quoting myself and adding emphasis) “purely from a political standpoint, this should be a time for celebration.”

To be clear, we don’t differ much at all, as far as I can see, on the policy question.  I readily concede that Obamacare if enacted and implemented would be a disaster for conservatives, for Americans, and by extension for the world.  On this note, Instapunk rightly emphasizes that policy is in the end more important than politics, then adds a gloomy forecast regarding the latter ever turning sufficiently to overcome the former:

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.

To me, this logic suggests a fundamental misreading both of what we’ve seen transpire and of how American democracy works.

The history of Western democracy includes some truly stunning partisan wipe-outs, but we don’t need to dwell on what today seems a remote political possibility (as remote as, say, a ca. 60-Democrat Senate seemed in 2002).  Dismantling, impeding, nullifying, and, in the end, fully repealing this bill does not require 60 Republicans or 60 conservatives:  Greater legal, legislative, and historical minds than mine must already be studying the precedents and gaming the scenarios, but we can observe here that, if passing popular legislation in the Senate always required partisan super-majorities, we wouldn’t have had a major piece of legislation signed since 1979.  We don’t know yet how the final votes in the Senate or for final passage after a House-Senate conference may go, but reversing them down the road would merely require a popularly backed majority joined by a passel of fence-sitters, perhaps including Democratic senators who in the current session vote for cloture but against final passage, perhaps including a few changes of heart.  It could be as simple as that.

Looking further ahead, speculatively, the President himself would likely remain a roadblock to formal repeal, but, even prior to the election of 2012, the “damage control” that Instapunk describes, involving excision of particularly obnoxious elements of the bill, might effectively impede its implementation.  Moreover, it’s well worth keeping in mind that removing the budgetary heart of the bill can be  achieved via the Senate reconciliation process on a simple, unfilibusterable 51-vote majority (especially easy to justify if Obamacare finally passes on party line votes as narrow as Pelosicare’s in the House).  If virtual repeal on this basis looks achievable as early as, say, 2011, the President might veto an O-care-destroying budget, while hoping for a re-play of the Clinton-Gingrich government shutdown confrontation of 1995, but such a battle could unfold in many different ways.  After Obama is gone, a conservative president and conservative majority, at the crest of a continuing or revived conservative wave, could much more easily achieve effective or formal repeal.

The only reason to consider such outcomes impossible would be belief that the public will change its mind, that we do not face a looming fiscal and economic crunch, and that entitlement programs, once enacted, cannot ever be rescinded.

The first two propositions are at minimum debatable, and the tides of opinion and economic projection currently seem in conservatives’ political favor – a very well-evidenced observation that provided the basis for my “Make Our Decade” post and to varying degrees for the positions of my fellow Polyannist-Leninists.  As for the third point, on the supernatural immortality of entitlement programs, we hear and read variations on it frequently – sometimes offered with a knowing laugh, lately from conservatives who have been attempting to gin up opposition to O-care – but, if and when the bill passes and is signed, the embrace of this perspective would be defeatism pure and simple.

It would also remain an exaggeration, because entitlements or their equivalent have repeatedly been cut or eliminated around the world and throughout history – though frequently, it must be admitted, only as a result of economic or political breakdown. The modern European welfare state has indeed been extremely difficult to unravel, but it hasn’t been around for very long.  For most of the time that it has been in existence, progressivism, socialism, and their variants were historically new and on the rise, and were further supported by economic and political contingencies (including military and economic support from the US of A) that cannot last forever.

As for this specific entitlement, what makes anyone believe that any guarantee it entails or calculation it depends on will be sustainable for very long, much less become “permanent”?  We will soon have to make some difficult fiscal choices on an almost incomprehensible scale, or have them made for us via national bankruptcy – under which latter situation all such entitlements would merely entitle the citizen to go searching with devalued dollars or theoretical guarantees for scarce to non-existent goods and services. The crisis of debt-supported, obligation-deferred, risk-displaced welfare state capitalism that exploded last year is not over.  It’s hardly even in abeyance, and Obamacare promises to deepen and accelerate it.

Before the next reckoning is reached, a coherent political force can achieve things that previously seemed politically impossible. That sort of change, believed in or not, has happened before in history, several times in our own history, and sometimes far ahead of the schedule set by the change agents themselves.  Furthermore, as has been pointed out by many observers ever since the polls turned decisively against Obamacare, no legislation this sweeping, partisan, and unpopular has ever before been passed.  To use one of the Obama Administration’s favorite words, enactment of Obamacare would be truly unprecedented.  We should therefore consider that unprecedented events tend to imply unprecedented responses, and unprecedented political events require and ensure unprecedented political responses:  The only real question is how long the equal and opposite reaction can be denied and suppressed.

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.”

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

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Oy vey:

I just don’t think you appreciate how dug-in the Left is and how impervious to reason they are.

So break up the country because you can’t persuade them. Clearly there has to be a better way.

“I’m not talking about imprisoning anyone,”

Gee: “let them […] become a current-day version of Burma or Cambodia or something. Once they’ve all “re-educated” each other to death, simply walk back in and re-take the land.”

Because we have all of that international travel with Burma and the Cambodia of the Khmer Rouge era.

“I’m talking about separating myself, and others who are not interested in Leftist totalitarianism, from them”

Well, actually you were talking about secession which has greater consequences for the country then you going off and living like the uni-bomber.

“One of the appealing aspects of simply making a clean break is that none of this institutional baggage from a bygone age would be required to come along.”

Yeah, I’m sure that you will be able to just renounce the debt and take the assets with no problems. What baggage do you want to take? The mints, the treasuries, the military bases, the ICBM’s the whatever are just going to be turned over to you so you can wave good bye and build your own utopia? Think someone might have a problem with that? Oh, what about the people who disagree with you in your new confederate states of America? Lets see, Texas has Austin… Going to deport them? How about Miami? Going to saw that off from the rest of Florida? You’ll have baggage all right. Institutional and otherwise.

“Yes, again, I agree, but the window of opportunity is probably too short for this to be realistic.”

Best get to work. Hadn’t we?

“Again, better to start afresh and leave the Left holding the bag for their own institutions,”

Again, we have the same logic at work here that got us into this disaster in the first place. The idea that you are being clever by letting the “left” make the biggest mess possible so you can say; “see, I told you so” just means that there is a huge mess that needs to be cleaned up by the people who ALWAYS clean it up. On the one hand you declare a segment of the population as hopelessly and irrecoverably lost. On the other hand you think that they may learn something from “holding the bag”.

“Me leaving the country won’t make the task any less futile, either.”

Sure it will. According to what you have espoused here it will mean less dead weight and less advocacy for leftist empowerment. Reclaiming the USA is not a “futile” endeavor. If you believe that it is you owe it to yourself and everyone else to find someplace where you can remake in your own image. Bouvet Island ought to do it. You wont have much of a fight to take the place and you can say honestly say that you came, saw and conquered.

The “society I envision” is one where people leave other people pretty much to their own devices, to succeed or fail.

So breaking up the country will get you there.

Think of me as Greta Garbo. I just want to be left alone.

Bouvet Island baby. Bouvet Island.

“Marxists in Western countries saw that they would never be able to come to power via violent revolution, so they adopted a “cultural” approach”

Gee, that sounds unstoppable. The only logical countermeasure is secession. Oh wait, no. Beating them with better ideas about individualism and working harder then they do to see that they are applied might get us farther. Heck, we may never get to completely eradicate the Marxists, but we can work to limit their influence. Milton’s self-righting principle, a cornerstone of our constitution basically states that if Marxism is culturally and morally bankrupt and intrinsically unfair and unworkable (as I believe) then it will be discarded by a free people. It will be flirted with from time to time but it can never work. It has never worked. Splitting up the country rather then pushing back against an unworkable idea is crazy. Winning the argument and isolating the unworkable is a hell of a lot less traitorous then wrecking the country.

“They come after you with lawyers and theories of victimology and guilt.”

Oh my God! Not a guilt trip! You are right, they are a bigger threat then the Nazis, Red-coats and the Soviets put together! Where did I put those stars and bars?

“These “weapons” are, arguably, more dangerous because they appeal to soft-minded people”

And there will be none of them allowed in this new utopia presumably. I am serious as a tumor here: Bouvet Island is the key to all you desire. Soft minded people would freeze to death in no time.

I’m not being a “crybaby”, I’m being realistic

LOL! Secession is of course a “realistic” solution to the dilemma of getting away from soft minded people. Everything about the idea is “realistic”!

You might not want to agree, but let’s leave out the puerile insults, OK?

Cutting up the USA because you are not getting instant partisan political gratification and don’t want to do what is necessary to roll back the advances of the opposition calls for such a response. I have actually been remarkably restrained. I’ve known people who were killed for defending what you would casually cut to pieces. It’s something I take quite seriously.

“huge proportion of those who vote Left is concentrated in a few urban areas along the coast and other urban enclaves scattered throughout the country. Isolate them there and they won’t be threatening your homes.”

So much for “I’m not talking about imprisoning anyone”. My home is quite safe by the way.

“Is giving up New York City to the Left really that big a deal, if you could keep the other 80% of New York state that swings more to the Right?”

So you aren’t talking about secession, you are talking about purging territories from the country. Why not keep the territories and purge the people? After all, the people can be moved easier. We could concentrate them… in camps.

“Or giving up Cleveland and finally letting Kucinich implement his socialist wet dreams there?”

OK, you can have Cleveland.

“I didn’t say the country was permanently lost, but that a segment of it is.”

Well, you have stated that the country is lost and the fight to reclaim it is futile. Go re-read. That aside: Of course the beast thing you can do with a segment of the population that is lost is to give them New York City and Cleveland. Right? Not limit their influence… More “realistic” that way.

Why fight them when you can just say, “Hey, we need to have the political equivalent of a divorce. You take your sh!t and I’ll take my sh!t and we’ll call it even.

Congratulations on keeping your marriage together, you obviously have no clue as to what a divorce involves. Last time the USA tried it, it cost 630,000 Americans killed and we still don’t have a prenup.

“No, the quality of the argument is a secondary consideration to these people.”

Might become of paramount concern if we could cut their social programs to the point where they can’t rely on government to insulate them from reality. Naaaah, give them half the country. Or Cleveland!

“I don’t need to “empower them”, since they already hold Congress and the White House.”

We already empowered them when 4 million conservatives stayed home last election day because the imperfect was running against the horrible.

We already know that almost half of people in the workforce pay zero income tax [,,,] many of the remaining people who pay no taxes expect to get benefits. That’s a constant refrain here and I agree. Again, splitting the country in two would force those people to fend for themselves.

Or, we could get organized, get smart, get busy and run people who will force them to fend for themselves without splitting up the country. CRAZY talk I know… Much easier to have a civil war. More realistic.

“Pope Benedict adopted as one of his mottos, “succisa virescit”, meaning “once it is pruned back, it grows back stronger””

Lots of people here adopted the motto that you have to go through Carter to get to Reagan. Not working too well IMHO. Sometimes pruning kills the tree. My mothers family motto was “Deus juvat” — “God assists”. As my grandmother explained, “That doesn’t mean that you still don’t have to put your back into the job”.

“make some minor corrections to the Constitution”

Why not put the old rag in a shredder. It wouldn’t be for “We the people” any more. Just “We the people that venividivici decided didn’t have to live in effing Cleveland.”

Anyway, you put together a couple of reasonable responses, so I wanted to respond in kind.

Well, Foghorn leghorn eer, cane_loader thought them to be quite unreasonable.

Please, venividivici, The USA is worth fighting for and you are going to have annoying people wherever you go. (except Bouvet) This pipe-dream of chopping up the country will only balkanize us more and would mean the eventual demise of the dismembered parts. Can’t let that happen.

Boxy_Brown on December 22, 2009 at 12:37 AM

And then, from out of nowhere came cane_loader:

I’m going to address you in this one comment only,

It’s already superfluous.

“because I don’t have the time or desire to put up with the abusive commenting style you seem to be enjoying,

If you find my patriotism “abusive” too bad. You might find that I am not particularly unusual.

and because you won’t change my mind, after having read your comments on this thread.

Not much point in me reading any further. Is there? Since your mind is closed to whatever I have to write what’s the point? I will address what you wrote because at least one of us make the effort to read the comments of the other.

“You are the first commenter in this entire thread to go on a sustained ad-hominem blitz against anyone engaged in rationally and hypothetically discussing the machinations and ramifications of secession”

Not just the insaine idea of secession, but the rotten idea that the USA isn’t worth fighting for and is beyond saving. If you believe that it is and that breaking it up is a viable idea then Ill drive you to the airport as well.

“I won’t be tempted to answer a single one of your comments, as your opinion is clear.”

That might involve actually reading and understanding them.

“Read the entire thread and you see that it was not about trolls.”

Gee, as you can see by what I wrote I was under the assumption that the entire thread was about trolls. Oh wait, no, I didn’t write that.

The discussion of secession was not about giving up on America

OK, what I responded to was pretty specific, maybe you didn’t read the discussion either. By the way, session itself is giving up on the United States. It is EXACTLY what it means. (“Formal withdrawal from an organization”) Stating that secession isn’t giving up on America is a contradiction in terms.

You seem to have missed that the thrust of this discussion has not been about leaving America.

I wasn’t responding to the “thrust of the discussion” however the self-proclaimed hall monitor wants to define it. I was responding to the comments of someone else who has declared the country to be beyond hope. Why don’t you actually read what I wrote? Oh yeah, you already decided that I wont change your mind so you can pretend I wrote anything that you like and take comical high-umbrage. It’s an outrage Sir! Breaking up the country in order to save it is so circuitous that it has to work!

“It’s about (if pushed far enough beyond today’s conditions, if the trajectory of the blue states does not change), forcing the blue states to rejoin America as productive members instead of leeches and tyrants.”

Thought it was about walling off Cleveland….Either way, Smart plan, perfectly in keeping with the smart, smart ideas like; If you want a conservative renaissance lets stay at home and elect a socialist. If you want to strengthen the country, divide it in half. Makes perfect sense. A modern day confederacy is just what we need to move the USA to broad sunlit uplands. It worked so well the last time.

4. If you had your way and no one had ever seceded, blacks would still be slaves.

Again, brilliant and perfectly logical, because I oppose the destruction of the Union I am pro slavery. Did you read that in my comments as well? Well Played sir! I have been caught out as a slaver!

There was an unbridgeable gap between North and South then that led inevitably to secession,

So in keeping with your ludicrous analogy you are going to have the Texas Militia marching down 5th ave bending the subway tracks into Sherman’s bowties.,. that ought to teach those pesky… Americans… Brilliant.
Here’s an idea; Why not elect competent people who wont screw up and when they do we hold them accountable for screwing up? Naaaah, the south rising again is so much more efficient then winning the battle of ideas.

“you seem to be intelligent, but a poor reader of others’ comments”

You seem to be a poor reader of other people’s comments.

“I hope that you can do better than this”

Hope springs eternal, however I have communicated what I have wished to communicate to whomever actually read it.

“That’s all.”

Am I dismissed?

“I won’t hold a grudge myself,”

Thank Heavens.

“and hope you will read carefully my wording before blowing up,”

I did, twice. I even didn’t declare before hand that you wouldn’t change my opinion. Now that we are at the end I can say that I read your message from a parallel universe, which is clearly more of a service then you granted me.

“You do realize that you have been using the same tactics on your fellow posters as Sen. Whitehouse??”

Yes I called them Nazis… Oh wait, no I didn’t. Oh, I called them pro-slavery… Oh, sure that wasn’t you?

Are you even sure you meant to address me?

Boxy_Brown on December 22, 2009 at 12:53 AM