Ever since ObamaCare passed last week I have had the feeling that the Democrats have crossed a line.
You can do the normal comparison: suppose a Republican president had done that?
Suppose a Republican president had pushed an unpopular bill through the Congress on a strict partisan vote with a bare majority of his own party in favor and a bipartisan minority opposing? Suppose the president had used questionable arguments in his speeches: that despite enlarging the scope of government, things would stay the same for most Americans and overall cost less per person? Suppose that angry Democrats had got up at the town halls of Republican congressmen and been summarily removed by the cops? Suppose a Democrat had been elected senator from Utah in the middle of all this on a platform to be the vote to stop it? And suppose after it passed the Republican president piled on with partisan rhetoric, such as President Obama has used, accusing Republicans of aining to oppose his plan from the beginning?
Yeah. The rage on the left would be deafening. And if that weren't enough, it would be strongly amplified by the mainstream media. After all, think of the stink the left made over the Iraq War, for which President Bush received a bi-partisan majority.
There is a feeling of impotence here, a feeling of helplessness. It's a familiar feeling. It seems that it's ok for the left to break the rules, but woe-betide the conservative who even thinks about it.
Shelby Steele has a good line on all this in his article "Obama the Good."
Of the two great societal goals—freedom and "the good"—freedom requires a conservatism, a discipline of principles over the good, limited government, and so on. No way to grandiosity here. But today's liberalism is focused on "the good" more than on freedom. And ideas of "the good" are often a license to transgress democratic principles in order to reach social justice or to achieve more equality or to lessen suffering. The great political advantage of modern liberalism is its offer of license on the one hand and moral innocence—if not superiority—on the other. Liberalism lets you force people to buy health insurance and feel morally superior as you do it. Power and innocence at the same time.
When you present the political divide this way, the necessary conservative strategy falls out naturally.
Conservatives must delegitimize the use of force to achieve "the good." It really isn't too hard to figure out. If you use force to achieve the good what you get isn't good, it's just force. That's why all the big-government programs from mandatory health care to mandatory education to government welfare always fail. Force is force. It isn't good. It isn't just. It isn't equality. The only legitimate use of force is to defeat force.
The great enlightening experience of the last 500 years is that you don't need force to keep society functioning in the day-to-day business of making a living. You can trust "the market," properly reinforced to penalize cheating, to deliver material goods in abundance. Thus you can leave moral questions to the moral/cultural sector and the social instincts of love and hate, guilt and shame, the velvet glove of moral suasion rather than the mailed fist of government power. The political sector can thus concentrate on real threats of force from enemies foreign and domestic, rather than on the chimera of the evil corporation, which threatens non-one.
Government is force. Politics is power. All the rest is "narrative." Let that be the conservative cry.