To paraphrase Thomas Paine, “these are the times that try conservatives’ souls.” Paine thus began The American Crisis, now enactment of the health care bill appears to herald a Conservative Crisis. After almost a year, victory had seemed finally within their grasp. Instead, it just eluded them. However this is just a short-term view. Hard as it now may be, conservatives must see beyond the horizon, if they are to seize the long-term initiative that still favors them.
Conservatives had ample reason to believe something as unpopular as the health care bill would surely fail. To their core, they felt something so wrong ultimately would be rejected. Now they face repercussions to America’s health care system, economy, and deficit. Reality has replaced hope; the extent of their loss looms large. Conservatives therefore lost more than just a bitter ideological struggle, they lost a lot more of the economy to the government.
Sure, opposition to the health care plan remains strong nationally. And that opposition already is yielding political opportunities. However, rolling back the health care bill will be hard. Conservatives would need Congressional majorities to even pass such legislation and then a president to sign it. And parts of it will prove popular, repeal of which will prove challenging, even when the political means exist.
It is easy then for conservatives to see an inexorable expansion of government. A vision whereby it moves at times incrementally – at others exponentially – but always irresistibly forward. How can the private sector stand against it?
Amidst this gloom though, there is more than a glimmer for conservative hope. To see it though, they need to look beyond the short-term and even beyond America’s own boarders.
The Left’s ascendancy is far from pre-ordained. Instead, as history shows, just the opposite has prevailed.
Many countries far more committed to the Left have retrenched rightward. In these countries, the state had seized the “commanding heights” of the economy. In their 1998 book of that name, Daniel Yergin and Joseph Stanislaw remind us of the worldwide abandonment of socialist and communist ideologies at last century’s end. These happened precipitously. States did so not because they wanted to; they did so because they had to.