As it so happened, I was in Washington DC on that National Mall as congress was voting on the mess which is our “health care reform” bill. I hadn’t been to our capitol city before, and it was a simply beautiful afternoon — one on which it was hard to believe that our elected representatives were bringing us one large step closer to a major budgetary crisis point, and Representative Stupak was busy selling out the principles everyone had imagined to be as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar for a rather paltry executive order which may (or may not) come after the fact. (Call me a cynic, but I could well imagine the EO never coming. Though in a sense, why not issue it: It would have no effect and could be repealed at any time. Still, there would be a great deal of justice and truth in Obama using the old Microsoft line, “Your mistake was in trusting us.”)
Still, though sun, green grass, and stone monuments are fresh in my mind, and the largest looming problems in my mind revolve around children wailing that they need a bathroom right now while traveling on the metro (let’s just say that didn’t end well) I don’t want to seem as if I’m discounting the importance of what we’ve just seen. And there seem to be some fairly clear conclusions we can draw:
1) Stupak had no desire to be to abortion what Joe Lieberman chose to be to foreign policy. Lieberman was hounded out of his party and continues to hold office only because of people who disagree with him on nearly every other issue admired his principled stands on Iraq, Israel, etc. If Stupak had brought down the Health Care Reform bill in defense of the unborn, he would have received similar treatment from his own party to what Lieberman has received, and he clearly didn’t want to be that person. Instead, having talking himself into a corner he really didn’t want to be in, he seized upon a fig leaf when it was offered and did what he’d clearly wanted to do all along:
Voted for his party’s bill regardless of the effect on abortion. One wishes, of course, for more principle out of politicians. One wishes that civil servants in the spirit of Cincinnatus still existed. But in this case, no such luck. Of course, the ironic thing here is that he may lose even what he sold out to save. Conservatives will no have no reason to support Stupak (though I disagree with him on many other issues, such as unions, I would certainly have contributed to his campaign in November if he’d held fast, and I imagine many others would have as well), and I rather doubt that his own party will have much interest in supporting Stupak after he came so close to torpedoing them. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him go down in the electoral bloodbath now clearly coming November.
2) For fellow conservatives: Though it looked for a while there like because of the election of Scott Brown in the Senate (in conjunction with what appeared to be the emergence in the House of the first national profile pro-life Democrat with a spine since Bob Casey Sr.) we’d dodged the bullet, the passage of some sort of health care bill was fairly obvious back in November of 2008. All things considered, this is better than it could have been. Though it unquestionably is a large further step towards statism, and brings us one larger, fiscally irresponsible step closer to fiscal crisis, from a pro-life and from a conservative point of view, it could have been a lot worse.
3) The die now seems cast that the GOP victories this November will be convincing, perhaps returning the House and even the Senate to GOP hands. However, repeal is impossible without the presidency, and although parts of this bill are already massively unpopular, other parts will probably be popular (primarily guaranteed issue) and the GOP will need to bring some sort of credible alternative health care policy to the table in order to get rid of this monstrosity. If there’s one thing that would be worse than this bill, it would be keeping the popular parts and repealing the unpopular parts.
4) It seems increasingly apparent that although there are very sincere and very upright pro-life progressives (several of whom I have the pleasure of knowing) it is nearly impossible for someone with solid pro-life beliefs to make it into elected high office in the Democratic Party as it exists today. The pressures to sell out are so high that few of those practical enough to be elected can resist.
5) This is very far from the end of the health care reform debate. The bill passed, as it exists now, is something both sides hate. Democrats will seek to change and expand it while Republicans will seek to repeal it, but what has happened thus far spends a great deal of money and has corrupted several souls while in fact pleasing no one and benefiting few. We can expect to see legal and legislative challenges, state moves to opt out, political fall-out and more, for years to come. We can also expect to see zero change in the national life expectancy and an overall increase in the cost of health insurance in the next few years.