They did it.
Despite an overwhelming public backlash and the likely political ramifications, Democrats cut deals and twisted arms and got the votes they needed, winning by a 219 to 212 margin. While the reconciliation process still remains, it’s a sideshow at this point. The United States is a presidential signature away from having national health care.
Suffice it to say, as somebody who has spent the past year working to expose the devastating consequences of this legislation and who values individual liberty, this is a sad day. And I’m working on a longer piece right now for tomorrow’s site about the ongoing fight against its provisions, which just got a lot harder. But as upset as I am, I can’t pin the blame entirely on Democrats.
The reason is that by passing this bill, liberal Democrats were just doing what liberal Democrats do – raising taxes and expanding the role of government in our lives. Liberals have been working for decades to impose national health care on America. It’s been their Holy Grail. It should have been apparent to everybody that once they took over Congress and the presidency that it would be their top domestic priority. All of the leading Democratic presidential candidates proposed health care plans roughly along the lines of what passed today.
The question conservatives should be asking though, is how did we get in this position in the first place? How come, over the course of two elections, Democrats were able to take back the White House and amass substantial majorities in both chambers of Congress, allowing them to enact this sweeping legislation with no Republican votes – and huge defections in their own party? How could a generally right-of-center nation be taken over by liberals from Chicago and San Francisco?
The answer, of course, is that none of this would have been possible without George W. Bush -- or more broadly speaking, Bush era Republicanism. While they were in power, Republicans squandered an opportunity to push free market health care solutions. When they did use their power to pass major legislation, it was for policies like the big government Medicare prescription drug plan, which was (until today) the largest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society. They took earmarks and doled out farm and energy subsidies. They earned a reputation for fiscal recklessness and corruption and incompetent governance. President Obama ultimately forced through the health care bill in spite of the political consequences to his party because he’s ultimately a true believing liberal. But it was only because of the failures of Bush-era Republicanism that an ideological liberal with little experience was able to capture the presidency on the abstract notion of change.
Today will be largely remembered as the biggest legislative victory for liberals since Medicare in 1965. But it should also be remembered as the day that Bush cemented his legacy as one of the most destructive presidents for advocates of limited government.