In observing the unraveling of the governing coalition and the vicious infighting breaking out in the Democratic party (“Who lost ObamaCare?” will obsess the Left for years, I suspect), James Taranto writes:
One can fault President Obama for pursuing an agenda that would be bad for the country or for his party. But one can hardly fault progressives in Congress, much less activists who don’t even hold office, for seeking to advance the ideology in which they believe–for taking their own side in an intraparty debate.
The problem is that Democratic centrists rolled over. Either they yielded their centrist principles in the face of progressive intimidation, or those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with. The most dramatic illustration of this point is the list of moderate Democrats in the Senate: Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Jim Webb. Every one of them voted for ObamaCare. Any one of them alone could have put a stop to ObamaCare simply by casting a vote against cloture. Several of them voted “yes” in exchange for special privileges for their states, making quite clear that theirs was not a principled stand.
I think the answer to that is “those principles didn’t amount to much to begin with.” Indeed, these “centrists” didn’t merely fall off the fiscal conservative bandwagon on ObamaCare — not one of them opposed the monstrous stimulus plan. Only Evan Bayh opposed the 2009 noxious $410 billion omnibus spending plan with 8,500 earmarks. In other words, the so-called moderates never demonstrated any real moderation or inclination to restrain the Reid-Pelosi-Obama juggernaut.
And when confronted with legislation their constituents hated and that defied the fiscal conservative line on which they had ridden into office, they readily complied with their liberal leadership, in no small part because they perceived the risk of crossing the president and their Democratic colleagues to be greater than the risk of angering moderate voters. This was especially true for those who would not face the voters this year. (Only Bayh and Lincoln will.)
It’s a well-known pattern for many Democrats, Harry Reid included, from Red or Purple states: talk a conservative game back home, make speeches on fiscal sobriety, and roll over for liberal leadership when it comes to actual votes. Usually they get away with it when the public is not so engaged, the legislation is not so controversial, and Republicans blur the lines by defecting to vote with the bulk of Democrats. But here the public was vigilant, the legislation was noxious both in substance and in process, and Republicans held the line in their unanimous opposition to ObamaCare. So now these “centrists” are finding it hard to hide and explain why they threw in their lot with Reid-Pelosi-Obama. They may regret having “blown their cover” as faux fiscal conservatives for a bill that probably won’t pass and that is now the rallying point for an energized opposition.