Jonah Goldberg
Recommend this article

Alea iacta est. That's what Julius Caesar proclaimed as he crossed the Rubicon river in 49 B.C. It means "the die is cast." By crossing the Rubicon with his army, against Roman law, Caesar guaranteed a head-on conflict with the overconfident Roman ruler Pompey. Outnumbered, Caesar was presented with the choice: win or die.

The recent special election in the 26th congressional district of New York was a political Rubicon. The Democrat, Kathy Hochul, ran against the Republican budget, specifically Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to save Medicare by turning it into a voucher program starting 10 years from now (excluding all current beneficiaries).

The Republican, Jane Corwin, said she supported the plan and then spent much of the campaign defending it with all of the verbal dexterity of a contestant in a cracker-eating competition.

It's difficult to exaggerate the gloating and glee from Democrats about their triumph. Their takeaway: Democrats can win if they demonize the Ryan plan and run ads (or allow third-party groups to run them) showing old ladies being flung from cliffs like Spartan infants.

There is certainly good reason to believe that Hochul's so-called "Medi-scare" tactics made the difference. It was the top issue for nearly a quarter of voters. And while most of them may well have voted Democrat anyway, the simple fact is that Hochul won a single-issue campaign in a district that shouldn't have elected a Democrat at all.

Republicans console themselves by noting that the she won with only 47 percent of the vote, and a Democrat-gadfly who bought the tea party label garnered 9 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, Corwin simply wasn't a very strong candidate. Karl Rove points out in the Wall Street Journal that Hochul received merely one more percentage point than Barack Obama did when he lost the district in 2008.

Even Paul Ryan says that aside from the Democrats' lies and distortions about his plan, Hochul's victory "shows that a Democrat running as a tea party candidate dumping a couple million dollars in the race is going to have an effect."

Fine, fine. For the sake of argument let's stipulate that's all true. So what?

The simple fact is that the Democrats have their battle plan. It's going to be Medi-scare every day in every way for the next 17 months. They are on autopilot. They are committed. Their die is cast. They have crossed their Rubicon. They have no desire to defend ObamaCare, high gas prices, high unemployment and a third Middle East war. They want -- no, need -- to be on offense because they have so much they cannot defend.

Recommend this article

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jonah Goldberg's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.