After ordering Pickett’s charge, Robert E. Lee reputedly mingled on the Gettysburg battlefield with his soldiers fortunate enough to have survived the debacle. “It’s all my fault,” he said.
Will Nancy Pelosi have a similar moment of regret after next Tuesday, when — whether Republicans take the House or not — many of her troops won’t be coming back?
For now, she maintains that “we haven’t really gotten credit for what we have done,” which is axiomatic as far as it goes. “Credit” is not typically what a party gets for passing signature legislation consistently opposed by the public, as Pelosi did with malice aforethought on health care. She considered a few of her members expendable in the glorious cause, but appears to have gone overboard with the expending.
Pelosi needed to flip key moderate Democrats who initially voted “no” on the health bill to “yes.” She might as well have asked them to quit on the spot. The Washington Post finds that in the eight districts where a Democrat switched from “no” to “yes,” a Democrat is favored to win in only one. In the five districts where a Democrat switched the other way, the Democrats look stronger.
If Pelosi had the political interest of her embattled members at heart, she should have brought health care up only as a vehicle for as many as possible to vote “no.” Since Labor Day, the Democrats who have included health care in their advertisements have tended to be the “nay” votes touting their opposition.
Rep. Earl Pomeroy of North Dakota briefly was an exception. Now, he’s up with an ad saying, “I know I’ve disappointed you with a vote here or there.” As if to say congressmen occasionally slip up and vote to create a disruptive, $1 trillion new entitlement program sold under brazenly false pretenses.
West Virginia governor Joe Manchin, running for Senate, has cut a winding path. He supported the law earlier this year. When it began to drag him down in his Senate race, he talked of repeal. Now, he says he regrets supporting it at all. The logical endpoint of this progression is shooting a hole through the law, as he did with the cap-and-trade bill in a famous TV ad. He might want to bring a howitzer.
Democrats insisting the health-care bill is on the cusp of popularity strike the same note of wistful hopefulness as Brooklyn Dodgers fans of old waiting for next year. Its imminent embrace by the public is always just over the horizon. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found the law “is particularly unpopular in the districts that matter most in the Republicans’ effort to retake the House.”
The desperate Pomeroy is telling voters “I’m not Nancy Pelosi,” an ingenious defense but one not available to Nancy Pelosi. A New York Times poll finds 43 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of her and 15 percent a favorable view. Her numbers nationally are arguably worse than Christine O’Donnell’s in Delaware, and she’s a seasoned leader who is the face of the entire congressional wing of her party.
Vulnerable Democrats can’t run away fast enough. Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi says he won’t vote for Pelosi for speaker again. Neither will Rep. Jim Marshall from Georgia. Even Bill Keating, a Democrat running in a heretofore safe district in Massachusetts, doesn’t want to say whether he supports her or not.
Taylor complains that the speaker “veered” to the left, but if Pelosi were really to veer to the left, she’d end up in the Socialist Workers party. She’s been the kind of speaker you’d have expected — indomitably and heedlessly progressive. Moderate and conservative Democrats were her enablers, and she returned the favor by making them cannon fodder.
Pickett’s charge reached the Union lines on Cemetery Ridge before falling back. It’s called the high-water mark of the Confederacy. Pelosi’s charge established the high-water mark of progressivism, and she’ll have the bodies to prove it.
— Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail, email@example.com. © 2010 by King Features Syndicate.