Wednesday, February 03, 2010
Get Off My Cloud
Of the prominent liberals in today's blogosphere, Nate Silver is one of the more levelheaded. He does an honest job of handicapping the horse race of public opinion, so he was willing to acknowledge the unpopularity of health care reform while the rest of his liberal brethren were still drinking the Kool-Aid. But like his liberal brethren, he still wants Congress to pass the bill anyway.
It's not too hard why liberal non-politicians still favor the health care bill. If you believe in the power of government to fix the big-ticket problems of the day as they do, this bill is a big step forward. The negative electoral consequences are somebody else's problem. What's a little more interesting is the line of argument he uses to persuade fence-sitting Congressmen and Senators.
Yes you may lose your seat, Silver concedes, but you will still be better off if you pass the bill. The apolitical middle may turn against you if you support the bill, but the party base is guaranteed to turn against you if you don't. Silver and the others making this argument might even be correct as far as that goes. But that's not the end of the story.
First of all, if you're a Democrat gloomy at the prospect of facing the voters in November, eg Blanche Lincoln and her 27% approval rating, there has to be a strong temptation to wonder how we got here in the first place. And the answer for that has to be fairly clear: President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the liberal blogosphere have driven the party off a cliff, and arm-twisted the rest of the party to make sure they were in the car with them. Does Sen. Lincoln really want to trust her career to the likes of Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, Kevin Drum, or Jonathan Chait, when her excessive trust of such people is what has gotten her in the fix she's in now?
And, we're starting to see the intellectual shakiness of contemporary liberalism. The likes of Sen. Lincoln have a fairly coherent story if they flip on the health care bill now. She was for it, but didn't understand or appreciate before how much the folks back home were opposed to it, so she'll change her mind to defer to her constituents.
No, it's people like Silver, Chait, et al who can't admit to themselves the faults of the health care bill. If they acquiesce to the defeat of health care reform, their status and self-identification as liberals is called into question. And the ontological assumptions of liberalism aren't strong enough to withstand much scrutiny.