There was a time, for about 15 years, when The New Republic represented the sensible center-left. No more. Now, this piece of blather passes for informed opinion. Actually citing James Madison, of all people, in support of universal health coverage (which is akin to citing Abe Lincoln on the virtues of states’ rights), TNR went on to whine at great length that those meanies in the GOP have turned into the “Party of No.” (Gee, that’s original. Next thing you know, TNR will accuse Republicans of “bickering.”) Calling Sen. Max Baucus’ bill a “rough consensus” (how can it be a consensus if it can’t actually get people to sign on?), TNR calls the GOP “an implacable” “interest group.” Oh, woe is the GOP. Because Baucus is willing to throw a few bones to the GOP in favor of a proposal whose overall mission violated every tenent of mainstream GOP thinking, the editors of TNR think it just godawful that the Republicans won’t play ball.
Somehow, I don’t remember TNR similarly tut-tutting when it was the Democrats who were unanimously opposing GW Bush on Social Security reform. Somehow I don’t remember TNR having conniption fits about Democratic unanimity against a whole score of Republican presidential proposals. When it’s the Dems who all say no, they are not the “Party of No,” but instead are merely principled. But when Republicans all say no, suddenly opposition is a sign that the whole political system is “broken.”
This is the sort of logic that 8th Graders use. This is the sort of self-absorption that 7th Graders exhibit. This is narcissism, pure and simple. It is the attitude that they, the liberals, define the world, and that those who don’t come on board are by very definition not playing fair, because of course all fair play involves playing on the ground of and by the rules as the liberals define or redefine them.
Yes, of course Max Baucus deserves credit. He really, seriously, sincerely tried to find middle ground. But that doesn’t mean he succeeded in finding middle ground. It just means that he tried and failed. Just because one person failed doesn’t mean that the other person acted in bad faith.
And as long as the left continues to assert that demonstrably accurate criticisms of the main Demo plan (H.R. 3200) amount to “bogus claims” and “false” statements, etc., and to portray all of its opponents as “cynical and irresonsible,” then the left itself will be guilty of failing to provide any ground fertile enough to negotiate on.
Oh, yes, I realize that TNR wasn’t actually, directly saying that Madison would support unviversal health coverage. Instead, it was saying that the “factions” Madison warned against had become evident in the GOP as a whole through the GOP’s tactics and its obstinance. The effect is the same. The effect is to say that only an evil faction could oppose universal health coverage as defined by the left. But TNR utterly misrepresents Madison. What is happening right now is that Madison’s beloved “multiplicity and diversity of interests” is acting, as they should, as Madison invited them to act, to slow down change of a radical and monumental scale. Entire little platoons (to use do Tocqueville’s terminology to describe a very Madisonian notion) of self-motivated Americans are standing up and saying stop. (Perhaps they are standing athwart history!) They are saying this is too much, too fast, too radical, too big, and utterly ill-advised. And the GOP senators are listening. Maybe TNR‘s ivory tower blatherers should listen as well.