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It’s Never Easy

By From the September 2013 issue

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WANT TO HEAR a good one? According to the New York Times, not that it’s endorsing him, what’s the one thing that qualifies Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. for the U.S. Senate? Answer: He “helped write the Affordable Care Act.”

Once you’ve stopped guffawing, consider, as Jim Antle has done meticulously, Obamacare (among other related issues; see p. 26). With its “persistent flaws” and unpopularity, this jobs killer is doing as much as anything else to weaken Obamarule’s grip. Indeed, the law is making it possible to conceive that the deeply pessimistic question Jim posed in his essential recent book, Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped? (Regnery), could actually have a bracing answer. Much of course will depend on Republicans displaying “political competence,” as Jim diplomatically puts it, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 

If the GOP’s chronic fumbling of Obamacare politics is any indication, defeat seized from the jaws of victory will remain its standard operating procedure. Instead of turning up the pressure on Obamacare’s architects, most D.C. Republicans prefer to direct their fire at what Jim calls the “serious limited government faction inside the Republican Party.” It’s gotten to the point that the Washington Post’s official conservative blogger, Jennifer Rubin, seems to spend half her time vituperating Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and warning Marco Rubio to steer clear of them. In this climate, a responsible Republican can only be one who does not have the courage of his convictions. We’re all opponents of Obamacare, in other words, but let’s not dare to do anything about it. Certainly not now.

That’s a hell of a way to live. One would think pressing the case to defund Obamacare would be one way to hasten the collapse of an economy-killing program that is being administered with blatant disregard of our Constitution. But if a party can’t bring itself to express alarm at unconstitutional governance, what will it oppose? Does the rule of law still mean anything? I suspect that if you raise that question in Prof. Frank Buckley’s class, you’ll be on your way to an easy A (see p. 32).

Immigration is a trickier area, if only because the intensity of the debate obscures how ongoing it has been over not just years but many, many decades, as Grover Norquist reports this month (see p. 36), in a piece as illuminating as any I’ve read on immigration in our pages since people like William McGurn and Stephen Moore wrote on the subject for us in the 1990s. Perhaps the key thing to ponder is Grover’s reminder that most opposition to immigration arises from “patently leftist” arguments. Plus, opposition is a political and economic loser, in distracting ways that can give the right no satisfaction. Grover may just have to start a sister organization, Americans for Immigration Reform. Where do I sign the Pledge?

If not for immigration, would we still have Willa Cather? We wouldn’t have My Antonia, that much we know, and I’ll be the first to concede that the Shimerdas struck me as an awfully creepy bunch when I first read the novel. But since when is life supposed to be easy? No one worked harder in observing and capturing it than Cather, a great character and individual in her own right, a font of literary integrity and American decency and possibility. In Joseph Epstein (p. 52) she’s found the perfect admirer. 

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About the Author
Wlady Pleszczynski is editorial director of The American Spectator and the editor of AmSpec Online.