Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Why the Hurry Mr President?

President Obama took office promising a era of transparency and openness in government.

Well, you could understand that he would want to violate that pledge when pushing through the trillion dollar stimulus package. When you do your traditional post-election payoff to supporters you really don't want to let too much of the sausage-making see the light of day.

But in the case of health-care reform and of energy reform the president is proposing an utter transformation, a revolution, in the way America does business on health care and energy taxing and regulation.

It cannot be, Mr President, that this sort of thing is rushed through in the dead of night. It cannot be that it is passed on bare partisan majorities.

Because when you stiff-arm your agenda through, Chicago style, you are not obtaining the consent of the governed. You are setting up conflict for years to come.

The great culture war in which we live was not started by the religious right. It was started by liberals ramming their agenda through Congress and the courts. It was intensified by liberals refusing to debate their opponents honorably when opposition arose.

If you liberals ram through your agenda on health care and on "cap and trade" you will be not just doing an unjust thing, you will be making a strategic error.

The reason that Democrats got elected in 2008 was partly due to the natural political cycle: throwing the Republican bums out after eight years of Bush. But it was partly due to the intense partisan campaign conducted against President Bush right through his administration, representing him as a mad-dog partisan when he wasn't.

But now that Bush is gone, people can revert to their natural political selves. And people are naturally conservative. This is a center-right country.

The time is going to come, very soon, when liberals are going to find themselves in strategic retreat. The question will be: are they willing to lose gracefully, like conservatives in the years after the New Deal through the 1960s? Or are they going to be intransigent like the South on slavery in the 80 years between the founding of the United States and the Civil War.

It's time for thoughtful Democrats to start thinking about this. Chances are that 2009-10 will be a great high-water mark for Democrats and liberals, before a long withdrawing roar.

With the hyper-partisan health and energy agenda, the chances are that Democrats are putting themselves in the same overstretched situation as the German Army in the summer of 1942, just before the Red Army began its counter-offensive on the left shoulder of the Nazis' great salient into the southern Soviet Union.

The city around which the Red Army made its counter-offensive was called, at the time, Stalingrad.

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