Monday, March 22, 2010

The absurd American dislike of partisanship is mirrored by the equally absurd desire for absolutes. Witness the popularity of the slogan: "Health care is a right." Health care is a good, but not every good is a right.

Liberals like to think their goals are justified by logic and "objective" reason before preference. Universal truths are timeless: they don't evolve. So whatever liberals are defending at any given time, whether health care or welfare reform, Zionism or the rights of Palestinians, tax cuts or the Great Society, anyone who opposes them is assumed to be acting on impulse or making arguments founded on irrationalism. 20 years ago it was Reagan and the Palestinians, and even today the assumption regarding the latter holds for many. Facts be damned. But all agree that the Republicans are nuts.

Conservatives opposed to health care mythologize work as pain and relief from pain only as earned. This is conservative principle and it's ridiculous to argue that opposition to various proposals and to abortion for example is based on anything else. There's a question whether or not this principle is something conservatives are or have ever been capable of upholding, and the answer by and large but not entirely is no. But conservatives see life as lived according to principles only alongside the inevitability of failure, with punishment and a concomitant shame. There's plenty of room for hypocrisy in that but there's hypocrisy as well in Duncan Black's downplaying the problems of urban gentrification while not acknowledging that the masters of the "hellhole" -as he affectionately calls the city I was born in- made room for him and those like him by forcing out the previous residents of the place he calls "his" neighborhood. Atrios got his home the old fashioned way: slum clearance.

If liberals have principles so do conservatives, ditto for the failure to live up to them. But liberals have enlightened reason on their side so there's no need for punishment. They have their idealism and the best intentions.
What a stupid fucking country.
A year ago passage of some sort of health care reform seemed inevitable, and not a tremendous challenge. Only a year of dithering and bipartisaning and gangs of wankers and pre-compromising and, frankly, failure to put forward something simple and popular jeopardized it.
Duncan Black is an asshole, but assholes can be right. The Democrats won the election and have played defense ever since. Another example of conditioned response winning out over rational action. Josh Marshall is right to call it the "bitch slap" theory of politics.
The past isn't dead. It isn't even past.

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