The Obamic Wars Have Hardly Even Begun
posted at 8:45 pm on December 22, 2009 by CK MacLeod
I very much doubt that the outmanned troops trapped and facing capture or death at Dunkirk winked at each other [and] said, “Those Nazis have really stepped in it this time. We’ve got’em right where we want’em.”
Thus Robert F Laird of the blog Instapunk, replying to my “in defense of rightwing Leninism” post (under the title “Don’t despair about Obamacare” at HotAir). Mr. Laird views my position as advocating that we “accept our inevitable strategic defeat on the bill itself and buoy our spirits with dreams of the vengeance to come…” – as against his emphasis on the fight at hand: “If any of those dreams cause us to fight a scintilla less hard against the imminent disaster of passage, I am opposed.”
In my view, a strategic defeat would imply a definitive political re-alignment in favor of the left. I cannot agree that a defeat on this health care bill would in itself rise to that level. I acknowledge, however, that what the Obamacrats seem to be change-and-hoping for is that a major tactical victory on this single front could take on strategic consequences. As Kimberly Strassel argued Friday in the Wall Street Journal, echoing the views of conservatives like Mark Steyn, Andy McCarthy, and Mark Levin, liberals may indeed be “think[ing] big”:
The liberal wing of the party—the Barney Franks, the David Obeys—are focused beyond November 2010, to the long-term political prize. They want a health-care program that inevitably leads to a value-added tax and a permanent welfare state. Big government then becomes fact, and another Ronald Reagan becomes impossible. See Continental Europe.
It’s heady stuff for the pages of the WSJ – Obamacare as Cthulhucare – all the stronger coming in the middle of an article devoted to the by now familiar theme of “Democrats’ political suicide” – the raft of polls indicating public rejection of their hyper-partisan, self-aggrandizing and self-dealing, dishonest and tone-deaf approach.
Though many Democrats may believe that the public will come to like their work or at worst put it in perspective by the next and after-the-next elections, and though others may believe they’re simply doing what they were sent to Washington to do, the notion of a long-term strategic view does at least offer a rational explanation for their conduct. In another sense it’s just an uncomplimentary, some might say paranoid, translation of the Democrats’ own self-serving descriptions of their “historic” accomplishment (or near-accomplishment). Where I disagree with Laird and Strassel is that, even if the liberal brain-trust really is thinking along those lines, that doesn’t make their strategic concept right, and it doesn’t mean that this bill (or set of approximations of a bill) will serve their larger strategic purpose effectively.
Health care may be a critical struggle, and a final resolution on the Obamacare-defined front might carry strategic implications, but, for now and for the foreseeable future, it is still only one front in a larger war. As I’ve found myself repeating lately, health care may represent up to 1/5th of the economy, but 5/5ths are at stake. Put simply, we could win this particular battle on health care, and still lose the country. Conversely, we can cede ground on health care legislatively, but, under a stratagem as old as warfare – and fist fights – we may someday gain it back by exploiting the vulnerabilities that the other side’s unsupportable advance has created. Such a tactical reversal could also be of potential strategic significance, but in our favor: These are high-risk maneuvers for both sides, and the signs of over-extension, including but hardly limited to unconstitutional overreaching, in the O-crat salient already go well beyond the poll readings.
In the meantime, openly proclaiming an objective to be essential to the entire effort may persuade our own forces to fight harder today, but it puts us in an even worse position if tomorrow Healthcare Hill is still in the Obamacrats’ possession. After declaring the battle essential and seeing it lost, what would we say to our surviving troops? In this light, it shouldn’t surprise us if, wherever this discussion is playing out under the prospect of final passage, voices not just of outrage but of total surrender, or, what amounts to the same thing, of sedition and rebellion, are already sounding out. And why should the soldiers trust us the next time we say, “We really mean it this time – this is THE battle”? On the other hand, if a late access of public outrage and Democratic fratricide collapses the project at the 11th legislative hour, or if other forces intervene, are we to de-mobilize, thinking the war is won, leaving the GOP professionals to do the mopping up?
Just after I read Instapunk’s reply yesterday, I was amused to see that Dick Morris had also taken up the Dunkirk theme, re-casting the close of Churchill’s immortal speech following the British army’s rescue, looking to the struggle ahead:
If they beat us in the Senate, we will fight them in conference. If they beat us in conference, we will fight them in the House. If they beat us in the House over healthcare, we will fight them over cap and trade. We will fight them over immigration and amnesty. We will fight them over the deficit. We will fight them over the debt. And we will fight them in 2010. We will fight them in the House. We will fight them for Senate seats in Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and Arkansas. We will fight them in Colorado and North Dakota and California and Washington State. We will fight them in Illinois and in New Jersey. We will never, never, never, never give up! Our country is at stake!
I’d much rather have American patriots responding with such defiance and determination than have had Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor, or any other senator or party chair or pundit or blogger or commenter, sorrowfully describing what this bill “will” do to health care, to our seniors, to the states, to the economy, to our national future and to the most intimate decisions of our personal lives. Until the day the bill is enacted, fully implemented (sometime around 2016, apparently), and really paid for not just once or for few years but sustainably, there is no “will,” there is only what it “would do” (or would have done).
McConnell’s more recent comments to the National Review – looking forward to the cavalry’s arrival come 2010, promising that health care would be a “multi-cycle” issue – were much better. I was also glad to hear Republican Chairman Michael Steele take up the repeal theme, and to watch Karl Rove receiving an “amen” from conservative über-pessmist Mark Steyn on the idea that the Democrats may have unintentionally done wonders for the cause of individual freedom, by setting themselves up for an amplified version of the revolt that killed the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage act of 1988 one year after passage. Jay Cost’s recent post on the historical precedents for a populist ballot box revolution against the Obamacrats is also well worth reading.
Though the despairing cry of “once passed, it’s forever” will still be heard from the mouths of those who’ve been told as much over and over by well-meaning rightwing seers, it is not supported by the full historical record – nor can anything be proven (too few data points, no inertial frame) by reference to the relatively short political history of major American entitlement programs. However things turn out on this bill, I reject “nothing you can do about it” as an American answer to any inequity, any form of tyranny, or any governmental excess. Asserting the impossibility of correcting legislative error may sound wisely cynical, but it presumes the end of American democracy, the falsification of the very theory of America. If we can’t take our fate into our own hands, and trust ourselves to do whatever we finally need to do, whether others including ourselves have ever done it before or not, then, with or without Obamacare, we’ve already seceded from America, from any idea of republican democracy, whatever we decide to call our new, shrunken state of existence.
Let the Democrats take ownership of divisive, anti-constitutional, anti-democratic policy and politics. American conservatives are the ones who are supposed to believe in and stand ready to protect constitutional government, and on a fundamental level that means we must believe there is nothing that an American government can do wrong that Americans cannot fix. Assuming as much doesn’t weaken us for the present struggle: It’s the basis of the struggle, and why we fight.