There’s no real precedent for this


The weight of Mr. Murray’s opinion trumps my distaste for belated posts. From two days ago:

The passage of the Social Security Act of 1935 is the only congressional vote I can think of that rivals the healthcare vote as a transformative legislative event. But consider the contrast. In the House, 81 out of 102 Republicans voted for it. In the Senate, 16 out of 25 Republicans voted for it. The Social Security Act was transformative, but it was not an imposition on the nation against the apparent sentiment of the majority of the population and through a nakedly partisan vote. If Madison and Hamilton had been around in 1935, they might have thought that the substance of the act was unconstitutional, but they would have been able to accept the legitimacy of the democratic process that led to it.

In the past, we have often had politics as bitterly partisan and polarized as today’s. But, whether out of principle or self-preservation, American politicians have behaved as if they accepted the wisdom of the Federalist Papers, agreeing that democracies fall apart when faction gets out of hand. Yesterday’s vote was the culmination of another kind of wisdom—that of the revolutionary who is willing to accept tactical losses for strategic victory.

Yes, the Democrats will suffer at the polls this fall. But there will be no repeal of health reform. Politicians never withdraw entitlements. The Democrats are right to think that what happened yesterday makes enactment of the rest of the European welfare state easier. But do Obama and Pelosi have any understanding of how profoundly they have violated the sense of the American project? Do they have any idea how hard it is to sustain democracies over long periods of time, and how fragile our democracy has become because of what they did?

I’m sure they don’t. I can see no evidence that we have a president or Democratic congressional leaders who think in terms of “the sense of the American project.” It’s just another political system to them, to be manipulated as all political systems can be manipulated.

This morning, unlike any other day in my life, I feel like I am living in an occupied country.


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