So the Democrats have a healthcare win in the Houseof Representatives. This win that could prove mighty Pyrrhic. It will cost them dearly in the midterm elections as well as in 2012. Barack Obama, who seemed a lock for a second term at the time of his inauguration, will stand every chance of losing to any decent candidate the Republicans can muster. And in truth, Obama, who has collapsed in stature since the day of the inauguration will have wrought his own eclipse.
Americans have witnessed an ugly and extraordinary display of how the practice of democracy can so often overwhelm its theory. Firstly, they saw how those who claim an exalted moral stature for healthcare reform made a naked attempt to dodge a basic constitutional requirement for the passing of a bill. The subversion of the Constitution was abandoned when it became clear that the Supreme Court would not put up with a law that had been deemed to have passed.
What Americans saw next was the legislative process at its most squalid: bribing, cajoling, threatening, wheedling, all designed to bring on board those Democratic congressmen whose votes were needed to attain the number 216, and whoseprinciples were getting in the way of a yesvote. Hewing to principle is difficult, because it makes party whips angry, spoils dinner parties, and ends careers and friendships. So Kucinich, Stupak & Co. caved and succumbed. To borrow a phrase from historian Tony Judt, writing in the latest New York Review of Books: We
have abandoned politics to those for whom actual power is far more interesting than its metaphorical implications.
So were now on the verge of a tectonic change in the way American society is regulateda change vigorously opposed by over 55% of all Americans. Barack Obama did, of course, promisechange in his presidential campaign. He just left out the bit about its being change in which those who think they know whatis good for us pass a law that most of us oppose with a passiona passion born not merely of political opposition, but of a sense that President Obama has dealt the nation a calamitous hand.