Republican Revulsion to ObamaCare (2010 Apr)

by Barry A. Liebling

In American politics stubbornly sticking to your principles might lead to victory, but it could also spell defeat.

In March 2010 the House of Representatives voted to make ObamaCare a reality. On the Sunday that President Obama made it the law of the land his fellow Democrats were jubilant with their hard-fought success, while Republicans in Congress – who had worked to defeat ObamaCare – were seething with disappointment and frustration.

The coming of ObamaCare is bad news because it is an assault on individual rights and a victory for meddlers who are determined to make American citizens servants of the state. President Obama has accomplished what he and his cohorts have been craving for more than a century – a massive government grab for what remains of the private healthcare system. Of course, for a long time the government has had plenty to say about what healthcare you get and how much you pay for it, but with the new legislation the government’s reach and power is dramatically increased and your ability to control your own fate is substantially diminished.

David Frum – the distinguished commentator, Harvard-educated attorney, former speech writer for George W. Bush, and self-described conservative Republican – believes that conservatives and Republicans are largely to blame for the debacle. How so? In an American Enterprise Institute article he argues that Republicans were foolish to be so obstinate. They should have attempted to make a compromise deal with President Obama which might have resulted in legislation that would have been less odious, more aligned with “conservative views.”

Mr Frum has long argued that Republicans are not flexible enough and ought to be more conciliatory. He advocates sitting down with Democrats to find common ground. It is telling that Mr Frum states that the gap between ObamaCare and “traditional Republican ideas is not very big” and then asserts that “the Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan.” He is exactly right, and both ObamaCare and RomneyCare are adamantly inimical to individual rights and free markets.

Question – if David Frum believes that the Republicans and Democrats are not very far apart why is he so upset with ObamaCare and why does he describe it as “the most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960’s”? If the Obama plan is really terrible, what about the Romney plan does Mr Frum regard as acceptable?

Does Mr Frum believe that obnoxious schemes coming from Republicans automatically have some merit simply because they come from Republicans?

Mr Frum criticizes his fellow conservatives and Republicans because they “would make no deal with the administration…no negotiations, no compromise, nothing.” If you recognize that a particular political plan is detestable what are you supposed to do? Is compromise, meeting your adversary somewhere in the middle, always the correct path? If your political adversary wants the state to annex all of private healthcare is it mature, wise, and worldly to compromise and agree to its taking over only some of it?

Suppose the shoe were on the other foot. If David Frum were advising Democrats who were confronted with free market advocates demanding a dismantling of the welfare state would he advise his Democratic clients to forfeit half of the welfare state in the spirit of compromise? Would he expect them to take his recommendation seriously?

Mr Frum is correct that the conservatives and Republicans have themselves to blame for the birth of ObamaCare. However, it is not because they were so unyielding in the last year. It is because for many years they failed to articulate and adhere to free market principles.

The Democrats have always been advocates of a more activist, intrusive government. The traditional Republican response has been to pretend that they are champions of a strictly limited government, but to act as Democrats in slow motion. Voters have the choice of moving swiftly and whole-heartedly toward government intervention with the Democratic party or at a leisurely, halting, more cautious pace with the Republican party.

How can a Republican member of congress who worked for the Prescription Drug Plan of 2003 object, in principle, to ObamaCare? If a congressman believes that government should make a massive commitment to intervening with prescription drugs, what is his problem with tinkering with all of healthcare? Is cost the only obstacle? If in hindsight he believes that his support for the Prescription Drug Plan was a mistake, what does this say about his judgement and integrity?

In American politics sticking to your principles might lead to victory or to defeat. But acting without principles has only one outcome.

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