An eye towards historical context

AN EYE TOWARDS HISTORICAL CONTEXT…. After the Senate finally passed its health care bill this morning, a variety of efforts were made to capture the larger significance. Calling it a “watershed moment,” Jonathan Cohn described the proposal as “the most ambitious piece of domestic legislation in a generation.” Ezra Klein called it a “historic advance,” and “arguably the most important piece of legislation the body has passed since 1963.”

Matt Yglesias said the reform plan, if passed, will be “the greatest progressive social policy achievement in over 40 years. It’s fine not to be satisfied with this legislation, but it’s perverse not to be happy about it.”

Calling the bill “a cause for celebration, not recriminations,” Kevin Drum added, “I’m 51 years old and this bill is, without question, the biggest progressive advance in my adult life. You have to go back to the great environmental acts of the early 70s to get close, and to the civil rights/Medicare era to beat it. That’s four decades, the last three of which have constituted an almost unbroken record of conservative ascendency. And now that ascendancy is just days away from being — finally, decisively — broken.”

But it’s Jon Chait who goes the furthest, calling the health care bill “the greatest social achievement of our time” and “the most significant American legislative triumph in at least four decades.”

Of particular interest was Chait’s analysis of (what’s left of) the Republican criticisms of the plan. After running through the incoherent and contradictory claims, he concludes:

The persistence of these thoroughly debunked pseudo-factoids reveals a couple things about the state of the GOP. The first is that the party desperately lacks for genuine health care expertise. Being a member of a party long committed to defending American health care naturally makes one disinclined to study the horrifying reality of the system; likewise, a thorough understanding of the health care system makes one disinclined to support the party that has spent decades blocking its reform.

Second, conservative belief in the failure of health care reform is undergirded by deeper ideological values that are not amenable to data. Consider this typical salvo against reform in National Review, by Jeffrey Anderson, a Bush-era HHS speechwriter: “The motivation is simple and can be reduced to one word: power. And it doubtless has the American Founders, who dedicated their lives to securing liberty, spinning in their graves.”

If we want to understand why a bill that embodies the best of moderate Republican ideas has attracted zero support from the Republican Party, it is because moderation has disappeared from the party. The takeover of ideological conservatives, implacably opposed to the expansion of government, has rendered impossible any bipartisan solution.

Someone probably ought to let David Broder know.