The Corner

The Self-Inflicted Wound

It is a mark of the degree of political malpractice the Democrats have been guilty of over the past year, of the degree of their overreach and recklessness, that being left with 59 senators — a huge majority by any measure, and the same majority they had when Obama was inaugurated a year ago — is now somehow enough to make it seem as though they are powerless and is likely to kill the core (and almost the entirety) of their domestic agenda, and leave them rudderless and reeling.

They are of course not in fact powerless at all. But they have adopted an agenda that only a supermajority could pass (if that, even a supermajority couldn’t pass cap and trade), and with every indication of public opposition have only intensified their determination to pursue it, putting themselves on the wrong side of independent voters while persuading themselves that people would come around because this health-care bill is something liberals have wanted for three generations. They have made it impossible for themselves to change course without a massive loss of face and of political capital. But however costly, that change will now need to come. You have to wonder if the people responsible for setting this course — and especially Rahm Emanuel and the House and Senate leadership — will still be standing when it’s all done with.

Yuval Levin is the director of social, cultural, and constitutional studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the editor of National Affairs.

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