Losing Our Republic

At a November 4th presentation by GOP congressional leadership on their alternative health care plan, Eric Cantor & Co. seemed energized and upbeat, both about their own plan and about the other side's chances -- more than one said flatly that the Dems "don't have the votes" to pass their bill. That confidence seemed justified as late as Friday afternoon, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that "Democrats estimated they were 10 to 15 votes short of getting to a majority of 218."

On Saturday night, November 7, the Democratic bill passed 220-215. One Republican, Anh "Joseph" Cao of Louisiana, voted "yes."

The political sands had obviously shifted a lot in the days and hours leading up to the vote. Who knows what Pelosi and Obama promised those wavering Democrats should their "yes" vote cost them reelection in 2010? Lucrative post-congressional jobs like ambassadorships?  Threats, arm-twisting, bribes...all part of the legislative sausage-making process, I know. Unfortunately, what emerged from the House on Saturday night was no sausage, but instead a malignant, Republic-killing tumor.

It left me wondering about the tea party movement and how much effect it has really had in this whole affair. There was much chest-thumping in conservative circles after the August town hall uprisings, much talk that the demonstrations had put the fear of God into congressional Democrats. Maybe. And yet since then, liberal health care bills and plans have continued to coalesce on Capitol Hill. Now one has passed the House. The momentum, it seems, is with the President and his party.

This is so for two reasons, I think. One: as I was going to work in downtown Washington, D.C. on Thursday morning -- the day of the "House call" protests -- I emerged from my train into Union Station and beheld the protesters, who were then gathering and preparing for their march on Capitol Hill just a few blocks a away.

I spoke to a number of them.  They were uniformly middle-class, middle-American folks, whole families, whole neighborhoods of them. They looked and acted so nice. These are the kind of people who would bake you a tray of brownies if you weren't feeling very well...in other words, not intimidating in the slightest.

I tried to imagine myself as a Democratic congressman with this group outside my office. I would listen to their complaints, of course, but in the end, nothing more. Why? I would conclude (correctly) that I had more to fear from my own Left than from these nice folks.  

So that is one reason health care "reform" continues its unholy march toward the President's desk. The other? Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) put it best in a phone interview last Thursday. The Dems, he says, have "the courage of their convictions" in regard to health care. They are true believers. They are going to push this forward, regardless of the electoral consequences. My own suspicion is the same: that Pelosi and the Democratic leadership are perfectly willing to march their party off a cliff if it means achieving the long-held liberal dream of government health care.

Having spoken to a number of GOP players on the Hill this last week, I can assure my readers of two things. One: Congressional Republicans, their staff, and their allies are focused and determined. They are fully aware of the dangers of ObamaCare and are working 24/7 to secure its defeat. And two: there just aren't enough of them.

Our Republic is passing from history. It's now up to the Senate to preserve it -- or else administer last rites.

Matt Patterson is a National Review Institute Washington Fellow and the author of "Union of Hearts: The Abraham Lincoln & Ann Rutledge Story."  His email is mpatterson.column@gmail.com.