Challenges for Obamacare purists on the reach and scope of government
One prominent talk radio host said a while back that Americans shouldn't rely on health care insurance. They should pay their medical bills out of their own pocket. That's what his parents did. Then he added a note of sympathy: of course, not everyone is rich, so he understands.
Then, on July 13, 2017, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian who ran as a Republican, said on the Michael Medved show that GOP politicians promised repeal, and then he omitted the "replace." Clever.
We have been trending toward big government since FDR, aided and abetted by liberal Republicans like Nixon. And so the problem facing purists is how to break this formula:
1. Self-interest + government handouts = need or love for big government.
How do purists who dominate talk radio and TV and various websites wean the public off that formula without breaking this one?
2. Self-interest + taking away government handouts = public anger and shock = losing elections.
How to break the first one without the second one breaking the purists (and conservatism generally)? Or maybe they believe that the second formula is a mirage. Better not. Let's assume that the second one is real.
Can purist celebrities talk America out of the first formula? Just how powerful and influential are the radio and TV and political purists? How big is their audience relative to the total number of voters? Can they talk Americans into rejecting Social Security and Medicare? Not likely. See the second formula.
Do they preach to America – or the few who tune in – that Americans need to get their act together and stop depending on big government and that they should stop being selfish? Grow up, America!
Do they talk about the blessedness of Constitutionalism that seems to assume a Jeffersonian America of small, independent farms? Can we ever get back to such simple utopianism?
Do they express on the air that GOP politicians never did promise replace (Sen. Paul seems to think this) or that they shouldn't have promised it in the first place? Too late. They did.
America (barely) elected a semi-conservative or a neo-conservative or some sort of hybrid to serve as president. Were it not for the Electoral College, they almost elected a full-on liberal in Hillary. How effective are the media purists, anyway?
Or maybe conservatism is not the same as the brand the purists have in mind. Maybe moderate redistribution of money to pay for a safety net is baked into human nature so deeply that such redistribution will never go away or lose the field or see its momentum stopped, because justice or a sense of compassion demands a safety net. Social Security and Medicare again are examples.
It's a tough place to live – to fight the government trend that has never lost since FDR. The GOP had better get a replacement for Obamacare; otherwise, they will have broken their promise, however impure the replacement will appear in the eyes of the purists. Then the GOP can improve it as new law rolls out to the public.
In the bigger picture, one answer to the challenge of conservative purity in the face of a big-government winning streak is incrementalism. We need to roll back big government inch by inch, like a twenty-percent (or you pick the percentage) budget cut of all government agencies. No talk of annihilating any agency. Too scary. See the second formula.
Whatever needs to be done requires time and patience – the very virtue purists appear to lack.
James Arlandson's website is Live as Free People, where he has finished posting his Timeline and Outline series on Western Civilization, beginning with the Timeline of the Age of Affluence.