So one set of our friends is growling at another set of friends.
Not the best, but enlightening.
We’re big fans here of both the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation. But with this morning’s WSJ editorial titled "The Cruz Campaign Against ObamaCare," the paper seems to have, as they say, gotten up on the wrong side of the bed.
Yes, yes…the WSJ was out there pointing out the perils of nominating the inventor of RomneyCare, a sentiment we entirely shared in this corner. The idea that Governor Romney was “the only candidate who could win,” to quote the establishment mantra of the day, was never right for what, to some of us at least, were obvious reasons at the time.
Indeed, in the beginning the Heritage Foundation was on the wrong side of the RomneyCare formulation, a rare misstep for America’s premiere conservative think tank.
Time has moved on, however, and here we are in the middle of the latest ObamaCare debate.
Respectfully, it would seem that this time it’s the WSJ that has gotten it wrong – for exactly the same reason Heritage had it wrong on RomneyCare. Above all, what RomneyCare was about was a supposed conservative approach to health care. It was in fact a good example of what Margaret Thatcher’s conservative intellectual guru Sir Keith Joseph accurately labeled as a turn of the “socialist ratchet.” Joseph’s point, which the soon-to-be prime minister took to heart, was that Labor governments spent their time steering the government left. When a Conservative government arrived in 10 Downing Street, the left turn was accepted as the status quo. Post-war conservative prime ministers (Churchill’s second go round, followed by conservative successors Eden, MacMillan, Douglas-Home, and Heath) thus began their tenures accepting the latest leftward turn as the new normal.
Over time the effect of all of this was a steady, always dependable left turn for Britain, with the so-called “Conservative Party” conserving nothing but Labor’s direction for the country. The reason Lady Thatcher literally went to her grave with a mammoth ceremonial funeral befitting a British monarch, lauded as the “greatest peacetime prime minister” in British history with her funeral cortege applauded by adoring crowds in a moving tribute, is quite simple. Margaret Thatcher put a stop to the Conservative acceptance of the socialist ratchet. Like her friend Ronald Reagan, she turned the ship of state in another direction altogether. Both took tremendous criticism in so doing. There were cries that they were ruining the political reputation of their respective Conservative and Republican parties, that they were employing bad tactics and dumb politics, they were dangerous, cold, and irrational, if not crazy.
All of this, as noted nearby, was standard operating procedure. Both ignored the critics. Reagan deliberately vetoed the 1987 Water Quality Act, knowing full well that his veto would be overridden and he would be cast as the man who wanted dirty water, dirty air, and was selling out to greedy corporations. He tried and failed to bring House Republicans along with him, a mere 20 sticking as the rest of the GOP caucus, terrified, voted with Democrats to override. Reagan took to his diary and vented that the House GOP didn’t understand the need to draw a line between what Republicans and Democrats stood for even when it means taking a sure loss. He called them “rabbits” and complained of the need for more “tigers.”
It seems here that our WSJ friends have momentarily succumbed to the cautious sentiments of those House Republicans of 1987. Defeat looms – so join hands with the left and just go along.
All over Fox News appear various ex-Bush aides – they who delivered up a president with a 35 percent approval rating and the parting gift of a President Obama – insisting they know about “smart politics” and “tactics,” and Senators Cruz and Lee are engaged in neither. Again, respectfully, it’s precisely that kind of thinking that has been an anchor on the Republican Party for some eight decades.
When the WSJ writes: “The question is how to oppose ObamaCare when Republicans control only one house of Congress,” they head off immediately into the procedural thicket that no one outside of the Washington Beltway cares about. When they write: “The only real way to repeal the law is to win elections,” they are precisely wrong.
Elections that drive the conservative base to the polls – and Reaganesque victories – come about precisely because said conservatives believe they have something they can enthusiastically support. The sad fact is that the strategy “to win elections” has been a loser for decades. Most recently, there was an election in 2012 – and the base simply didn’t show up. There was an election in 2010 – in which the lines were not blurred but made stark – and the base showed up in droves, making John Boehner the Speaker of the House as a result.
Can Ted Cruz and Mike Lee lose? Of course. The real problem isn’t the loss. The real problem is a conservative base that has lost trust in its leaders, believing them timid, out of touch, and capable of selling out at a moment’s notice.
The real problem is a GOP that prefers the politics of what Reagan scorned as the “fraternal order.” Or, as Senator Cruz puts it in Reaganesque terms, “the surrender caucus.”
We know they know this at the WSJ.
Tomorrow is another day.
Hopefully, this morning’s growl at Heritage and Senators Cruz and Lee – and the conservative base – will be replaced by the usual WSJ snapping at the heels of the real problem in this country’s politics: the socialist ratcheting of the American left.