Earlier this week, some of my National Review colleagues recoiled from Sarah Palin’s bracing allegation that Obamacare would foist government “death panels” on vulnerable Americans. I recoiled from the recoil, which I thought exemplified the same sort of “hysteria” the editorial in question, “Rationing and Rationality,” condemned. There followed a debate (see The Corner archives for August 17 and 18), largely a fine parsing of how — rationally, of course — the term “death panel” ought to be defined. As we went back and forth, I kept having this nagging thought:
We could still blow this thing.
Obamacare and its proponents have taken a drubbing in the polls. Americans are passionate about matters of life and death and who gets to decide them. Unlike appropriations for the F-22 or another billion or so in “stimulus” so the NEA can underwrite simulated-sex dances, the health-care issue aroused the public. Citizens read the bill (something their legislators haven’t been anxious to do) and blew a gasket. Saul Alinsky’s bag of tricks doesn’t say what to do when the opponent to be smeared in the public mind is the public itself. So our organizer-in-chief is adrift at sea, and sinking.
But this battle is far from over. Since Barack Obama first emerged in national politics, it’s been chattering-class wisdom to throw both caution and Occam’s Razor to the wind. No need for concern, the pundits proclaimed, about Ayers and Dohrn and Khalidi and Wright and Pfleger and Frank Marshall Davis and ACORN and the Chicago New Party and infanticide and . . . and . . . and . . . . No matter the fever swamps of his past, they insisted, Obama has a first-rate intellect and a winning temperament — why, he even writes his own books (about himself) and knows who Reinhold Niebuhr was. Once he takes the reins and grapples with the concrete complexities of governing, we were assured, ideology will dissolve. He’ll become moderate and pragmatic, if for no other reason than his own political survival.
But we knuckle-draggers figured that if it walks like a radical and quacks like a radical it’s probably not all that moderate and pragmatic. Nothing we’ve seen so far calls for revising that assessment. If anything, these last seven months ought to tell us that the usual political rules don’t apply when predicting this president’s behavior. His purpose is revolutionary change in an American society he grew up understanding to be fundamentally unjust, racist, materialist, imperialist, and the agent of global misery. He is in Washington to transform the nation from the top down. Nationalized health care is key for him. If he gets it, sovereignty shifts from the citizen to the state. By law, government will be empowered to manage minute details of our lives. Over time — when, as the American Thinker’s Joseph Ashby observes, a “1,000-page health-care law explodes into many thousands of pages of regulatory codes” — that is precisely what government will do.
Obama is not a normal politician. He’s a visionary, and using health care to radically expand the scope of government happens to be central to his vision. For my money (if I have any left), achieving it is more important to him than is getting reelected. His poll numbers and those of congressional Democrats may keep plunging (for the latter, there must come a point where that is statistically impossible), but they have the votes to Rahm this thing through.
To be sure, Washington is still populated with normal politicians, and that is why you can almost touch the Democrats’ desperation. They don’t want to walk this plank, and they are praying to Gaia, night and day, for that magic moment when the usual RINO rabbits spring from the bipartisan hat to give them cover from their fuming constituents. But at its highest levels, this Democratic government is being steered by the party’s most extreme leftists. Obamacare is their life’s dream, they have the power to make it happen, and if they have to go it alone, they will try going it alone.
Even if Obama were a normal politician, 2012 is three years away, and he’ll worry about that later, if he has to worry at all: With his Justice Department green-lighting election fraud, ACORN and the New Black Panther party riding high, and amnesty for millions of illegal aliens on the horizon, 2012 may take care of itself.
Things may appear to be going well at the moment for opponents of Obamacare, but the stubborn fact remains that only one thing can stop this monstrosity: wavering congressional Democrats’ discovery that they have more to fear from their districts than from their leadership and the White House. The ardor of public opposition will determine whether this battle is won or lost.