E.J. in agony
(Note: this was drafted Sunday night, before Obama’s Monday announcement of a new health care bill.)
All that stuff about the Democrats having a re-tooled health care plan and a strategy they’re ready to move forward on and how they’re going to get it through no matter what—forget it. The Dems are as far up Queer Street as they’ve ever been. They are like a cauliflower-eared club fighter who is about to go down for the count, but is too stunned to know it. I know this because Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, whose very thoughts and heartbeat are those of the Democratic Party, is flailing about in desperation, and doesn’t even seem to be aware of how desperate he sounds.
Dems Can’t Give Up on Health Reform
- end of initial entry -
By E.J. Dionne
WASHINGTON—This week will determine the shape of American politics for the next three years.
No, that’s not one of those journalistic exaggerations intended to catch your attention, although I hope it did. It’s an accurate description of the stakes at the health care summit President Obama has called for Thursday.
The issue is whether the summit proves to be the turning point in a political year that, at the moment, is moving decisively in the Republicans’ direction. If the summit fails to shake things up and does not lead to the passage of a comprehensive health care bill, Democrats and Obama are in for a miserable time for the rest of his term.
Republicans know this and are doing all they can to undermine, discount, discredit and back away from the encounter.
They are insisting, as House Minority Leader John Boehner has said, that the only test of Democratic seriousness is whether they are willing to “scrap” the health care bills that have already passed and “start over.” Doing anything else is dismissed as a “backroom deal.”
Of course it’s absurd to say that the House and the Senate, having worked for a year to pass quite similar bills, should now give up. [LA replies: It’s not just incorrect or unreasonable to say that two bills that are irreconcilable with each other and that are both deeply hated by the country should be given up, but it’s absurd to say that?] But Boehner knows what he’s doing: He wants the Democrats to give up on health care because doing so would be the surest way to prove that they lack the guts and competence to govern. [LA replies: No, Boehner wants them to give up on health care because he wants to save the country from a ruinous bill. But Dionne, whose life is the life of the Democratic party, cannot grasp that.]
Republicans hate this summit because if it works, it will keep this from happening, and also because it calls many bluffs at once.
Above all, Obama is trying to force the Republicans to put their own health care ideas on the table. As soon as this happens, the debate is no longer about the flaws, real and imagined, in the Democratic proposals. It becomes a choice between what the Democrats want to do and what the Republicans want to do. That’s a fair fight.
Obama also wants to cut through the shibboleths and cliches of conventional Washington punditry. There is much establishment mourning over the failure of “bipartisanship” and the rise of political “polarization.”
Obama is saying: Look—he always says “look” when he’s impatient—[LA replies: yes, that’s a sign of Obama’s eloquent grasp of the English language. The great orators of history are known for the frequency with which they preface a sentence by saying, “Look.”] Democrats have already included a lot of Republican suggestions in these health reform bills, and here they are. What more do you want? [LA replies: the obvious answer is that they want a bill that will not be impossible to understand, ruinous to the country, subjecting us to a hideous bureaucracy, and massively raising everyone’s medical costs] If the only way to get Republican votes is for moderate and liberal Democrats to enact conservative Republican ideas into law, that’s not bipartisanship. That’s capitulation. Can’t you see that? [LA replies: Yes, that’s right. It’s a terrible bill. Message from America to Obama: you should give up trying to pass this terrible bill.]
You want transparency? Let’s do this all out in the open. I’ll post our plan, you post yours. Everyone can have a look. No wonder Republican leaders are grumpy.
The summit will call attention to the elephant in the room that the most insipid commentary on the loss of bipartisanship pretends isn’t there: There is no bipartisanship because Republicans have become an almost uniformly conservative party. [LA replies: so the problem is the very existence of conservatism. Actual opposition to liberalism is the thing that has no place in America and must be banned. And Dionne complains that the Republicans are demanding that Obama capitulate!]
The GOP opposes—yes, on principle—many of the forms of government action that earlier generations of moderate and liberal Republicans were willing to support. [LA replies: This sounds just like Evan Bayh longing for the days of his dear old dad when Republican leader Everett Dirksen offered to help him win re-election.] The current crop of Republicans would never give as many votes to Medicare as the Republican Party of the 1960s was willing to throw Lyndon Johnson’s way.
To say that the one legitimate way to pass bills is to get a lot of Republicans to vote for them is to insist that election results don’t matter and that only conservative legislation will ever get through Congress. All the Republicans have to do is be stubborn and yell a lot about being “excluded.”
I don’t blame the Republicans for any of this. [LA replies: that’s not the impression you’ve given so far!] They have a right to be as conservative as they want to be. They have both substantive and political reasons for blocking health care reform. So far, the strategy has worked. Why should they do anything differently?
But I do blame those who pretend to be nonpartisan or “objective” for falling for this ploy.
And that’s whose bluff Obama is really calling with this summit. He’s saying: Please, establishment media, look honestly at what the Republicans are doing. Instead of offering lectures about bipartisanship or nostalgia for some peaceable Washington kingdom, look at the substance of our respective proposals and how they match up against the problems we’re trying to solve. [So, there’s the main basis of Dionne’s hopes, such as they are: that the summit will expose how much worse the Republican alternatives are than Obamacare, and that this will somehow shift public opinion massively back in favor of Obamacare which will then be passed. Talk about desperation! It’s the Democrats’ reliance on pathetic “strategies” like this which persuade me that they have no way of getting the bill through, they’re just trying to keep the idea alive so as not to admit defeat, as I’ve been saying since Scott Brown’s election.
Oh, and there’s also this: He’s telling Democrats they can get things done, or they can crawl away timidly into the darkness of self-defeat.
[end of Dionne column]
James P. writes:
“If the only way to get Republican votes is for moderate and liberal Democrats to enact conservative Republican ideas into law, that’s not bipartisanship. That’s capitulation. Can’t you see that?”
But if Republicans enacted liberal Democratic ideas into law, that would not be capitulation, that would be bipartisanship, right? All is now clear!
“There is no bipartisanship because Republicans have become an almost uniformly conservative party.”
Apparently in Dionne’s world, the uniformly liberal nature of the Democrats does not preclude “bipartisanship.” Only Republican ideological uniformity (which doesn’t exist in any case) is the obstacle to bipartisanship.
“All the Republicans have to do is be stubborn and yell a lot about being “excluded.”“
But there has been no stubbornness or yelling from the Democrats? Oh please.
“He’s saying: Please, establishment media, look honestly at what the Republicans are doing.”
If the establishment media treated the Republicans honestly, that would be a first!
Dionne’s article is simply another example of the Democrats insisting that “bipartisanship” equals “doing what we want.”
What you are bringing out is that Dionne is so thoroughly identified with the Democratic Party (as I suggested in the original entry) that for him it represents the only good and the only standard of good. Therefore the Democratic Party can do no wrong. Goodness (or “bipartisanship,” which is the particular form that goodness takes in this discussion) is measured by conformity with the Democratic Party, while badness (a.k.a. “stubborn partisanship” or “conservatism”) is measured by disagreement with the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party is thus to Dionne what Islam is Muslims. Islam and its followers by definition can never do wrong, because Islam is identical with goodness, while rejection of Islam is by definition evil. By definition, a Muslim can never do wrong to a non-Muslim. By definition, a Democrat (or a liberal) can never do wrong to a Republican (or a conservative).
Bill in Maryland writes:
You write: “The Dems are as far up Queer Street as they’ve ever been.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 23, 2010 10:34 AM | Send
In addition to its meaning in boxing, “in Queer Street” has another, quite different meaning, which is equally appropriate to the present state of the Democratic party:
“Queer Street” is a slang term for Carey Street in London, the location of the city’s bankruptcy court. “Queer” is a reference to an old slang term meaning “in financial difficulties”, i.e. bankruptcy.