The rhetoric has become too shrill. Even bloggers I normally like, respect, and find intellectually resonant have reverted to fear and hysteria. And, if one reverses the ideological polarity, there is a remarkable resemblance to the ideological panic of 2002.
That’s not to say that ideological or policy opponents of health care reform should relax their efforts to articulate their vision of a better America or to undo the damage they think has been done — far from it, although I’m not sure what, exactly, they could argue for at this point. There are two kinds of members of the opposition: the ones who actually engaged in the legislative process (and realized a moderate degree of success in doing so, an example of the hated “Broderism” of a true moderate in action) and those who chose plugging their fingers in their years and stamping their feet while saying “no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-no-NO!” over and over again as the tactic of choice. The President rightly does not fear the latter tactic because it’s a new middle-class entitlement, which means that like Social Security or the home mortgage interest tax deduction, we might as well chisel it into granite as a permanent fact of American economic life susceptible to only marginal change from this point forward. It can be changed incrementally but good luck trying to repeal it.
But it is not worth engaging in domestic terrorism. Knock off the bullets* and the knives and the other implied threats of violence already. While not all the reports of petty acts of domestic terrorism are accurate or even plausible, the right way to express your distaste for Congress’ recent activity is through the political process. What we’re reading about now is terrorism — the use of violence against those who have personally done nothing wrong in order to effect political change motivated by fear. Violence as a form of protest against passage of the health care reform laws should be condemned by everyone on all points of the political spectrum immediately and without reservation.
So it’s time for some perspective. Health care reform is big, expensive, and inefficient government in action. As enacted, it is an extension of the Bush Administration’s big-government, compassionate-conservatism ideology — it piggybacks government supports for private industries, uses fines to incentivize behavior the government finds desirable, and despite a lot of rhetoric and a willingness to cross ideological lines, it will both have much less effect that either its proponents hope or its opponents fear.
The big deal about it is not that it diminishes our civil liberties, because it doesn’t. It is that we have more important things to be spending our money on — or more accurately, to be spending our children’s money on. That is worth raising and sustaining a political stink and working to minimize its fiscal impact.
* The bullet found in Eric Cantor’s office window is being treated by the police as a “random act” rather than one with a political motivation. Okay, but the timing of this “random act” still seems very odd.