Commentary Magazine


Topic: Alf Landon

Republicans Won’t Play By Liberal Rules

The headline of today’s front-page feature in the New York Times on the future of health care in this country, “This Election, a Stark Choice in Health Care,” is exactly right. The future of President Obama’s attempt to impose a government-run system on the country that will raise costs and intrude into the personal decisions of individuals is on the line in November. If the president is re-elected, ObamaCare will survive even if the Republicans win control of both houses of Congress. If Mitt Romney wins and the GOP takes the Congress, it is certain to be repealed.

That’s a rather straight-forward choice, but what is interesting about the article isn’t the editorializing in favor of the bill’s retention in what is ostensibly a news article, but the historical context in which the Times attempts to place this choice. As far as the paper is concerned, the Republicans are not playing by the unwritten rules of modern American politics that state that once liberals pass a major expansion of government power, conservatives are forever barred from rolling it back. That was the conceit behind the president’s decision to ram ObamaCare down the throat of a reluctant Congress and a disapproving American public. He believed that once passed, that would end the discussion for all time. But the funny thing about democracy is that the voters always get the last word and it is that, rather than the rule-braking Republicans, that is the president’s problem.

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The headline of today’s front-page feature in the New York Times on the future of health care in this country, “This Election, a Stark Choice in Health Care,” is exactly right. The future of President Obama’s attempt to impose a government-run system on the country that will raise costs and intrude into the personal decisions of individuals is on the line in November. If the president is re-elected, ObamaCare will survive even if the Republicans win control of both houses of Congress. If Mitt Romney wins and the GOP takes the Congress, it is certain to be repealed.

That’s a rather straight-forward choice, but what is interesting about the article isn’t the editorializing in favor of the bill’s retention in what is ostensibly a news article, but the historical context in which the Times attempts to place this choice. As far as the paper is concerned, the Republicans are not playing by the unwritten rules of modern American politics that state that once liberals pass a major expansion of government power, conservatives are forever barred from rolling it back. That was the conceit behind the president’s decision to ram ObamaCare down the throat of a reluctant Congress and a disapproving American public. He believed that once passed, that would end the discussion for all time. But the funny thing about democracy is that the voters always get the last word and it is that, rather than the rule-braking Republicans, that is the president’s problem.

The Times comparison of ObamaCare to the passage of Social Security is no accident. Democrats believe that the election of Barack Obama meant they had carte blanche to change the country in much the same way that Franklin Roosevelt did after 1932. Indeed, Obama is seeking to duplicate FDR’s trick of winning a second term by running again against the man he replaced four years earlier. Yet even if George W. Bush is still unpopular (though not as unpopular as Herbert Hoover), Mitt Romney is not Alf Landon, the 1936 GOP nominee whose name the Times drags out of the dustbin of history in order to bolster the case for the retention of ObamaCare.

While the Times frames the issue as one of mean cost-conscious Republicans seeking to take benefits away from the people, they largely ignore the fact that the majority of Americans have always opposed the bill and that the 2010 midterm election was as much a referendum on it as it was on the president and the Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

Unlike Social Security, a measure that filled a gaping void in the needs of the vast majority of the electorate, ObamaCare attempts to fix a problem faced by a minority by transforming the health care system that, despite problems, largely works for most people. In doing so, it will aggrandize government, raise costs and, via the HHS Mandate, impinge on the religious freedom of many Americans.

That is why so many people are deeply anxious that ObamaCare be repealed. That may outrage the sensibilities of liberals who think conservatives must always accept as permanent any legislative defeat. The voters will decide the fate of both the president and his namesake. But whatever choice they make, it will be based on their beliefs about what is right for the country, not the unwritten rules of politics that liberals seek to enforce.

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