Is the tea party over? Are they folding up the homey red-and-white tablecloths, dumping the last of the cucumber sandwiches in the incinerator? Is that a packet of Splenda sitting in a little puddle near a table leg, angled just out of eyeshot of the bustling busboys? Because that's what I'm hearing from a lot of dispirited types. They fought the good fight and now they're looking for a good flight home. They are ready to swallow taxation with misrepresentation, belief you can change in, peace with dishonor, antisocialized medicine, health care deform, the whole bloody package.
What of repeal? Nah, they say. What's passed is past. Once the bill is signed it is time to forge a new direction. Voters will slap the face of politicians who are too froward. You can't approach the general election fighting the last war. The bell of history peals but once, it does not re-peal. There is a tide in the affairs of men, and all that, but once the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune honor us in the breeches more than in our observations to be or not to be is a moot question and the dog will have had its day. Yes, the Shakespearean phrases always show up in defeat as losers reach for dignity by waxing literary.
Not I. In this instance I am a believer in the morning-after pill. When they say to me, "RU-486?" I reply, "You bet I am for 86ing this miserable creation." And while it is true that repeal usually is a forlorn strategy, a quick exotic way to be written off as quixotic, this time is different for a variety of reasons.
THE KEY ELEMENT here is continuity. The path to victory for constitutionalist candidates must travel a straight line from the moment of this revolutionary legislation. If this cannot be established as bad history, it acquires the panache of history, which over time gives it the presumption of good history. Even Genghis Khan sounds kind of cute after awhile if we don't keep reminding about his body count.
All the pomp surrounding this historic foray must be countered contemporaneously. This is ill-conceived, ill-timed, ill-executed and will yield no benefit. Conservative politicians who stood united against passage and who press relentlessly for repeal will reinforce this narrative. The bad guys came and tried to steal our freedoms but the good guys scraped to get them back. The path of most resistance can be the path to victory.
This uninterrupted trajectory can carry all the way to victory in 2012. The steps are simple: run the Congressional races in 2010 promising repeal. If one house of Congress is won, pass a repeal law out of that house to be blocked by the other. If both houses are won, send the repeal to the President for his veto. Once that happens, the stage is set for 2012 to elect a President who will sign the repeal. Here is a rare argument which forces voters to give one party both houses and the Presidency to achieve a desired result.
Additionally, all this is feasible because of the timeline. The main features of the bill are activated in 2014. The period between now and then will be rife with rumblings of massive governmental entities being shifted into position. These cannot fail to sound ominous, like the bureau being moved in the attic, like the first shift of snow signaling the avalanche. The likelihood that the bill will amass new adherents in the interim will be canceled by the live repeal debate. If it is allowed to build without opposition, it will prove worse in the prosecution than in the inception.
Furthermore, if this battle is over then others will begin. New and more ambitious slides into overt radicalism will visit and make themselves comfortable, bringing ever more companions in their wake. Yet if the battle over health care never dies then the Democrat energies will remain preoccupied. They cannot surge forward to capture new territory if the beachhead continues to take fire.
So bring out another round of tea. You can try all the arcane flavors because we expect to be here for a while. And until the health care bill actually takes over, I think we are still permitted to indulge in one of those lovely biscuits with the chocolate swirls on top, if you will be good enough to pass them down.