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ObamaCare and Being on the ‘Wrong Side of History’

Harry Reid says that his opponents are on “the wrong side of history,” but does history have sides?

by
John Rosenberg

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January 3, 2010 - 12:00 am
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Recently, as everyone knows by now, Harry Reid compared critics of ObamaCare to apologists for slavery:

Instead of joining us on the right side of history, all the Republicans can come up with is, “slow down, stop everything, let’s start over.” If you think you’ve heard these same excuses before, you’re right. When this country belatedly recognized the wrongs of slavery, there were those who dug in their heels and said “slow down, it’s too early, things aren’t bad enough.”

Most responses to Reid have furiously concentrated on his spurious slavery analogy, but I’d like to call attention to his expression of what has become a staple of liberal thought that is even more disturbing: the accusation that those who reject liberal nostrums are “on the wrong side of history.”

For some reason, the Democratic caucus these days seems to be filled with deep thinkers who have cracked the code of the meaning and direction of history. Just a couple of weeks ago the sage of Ohio, Senator Sherrod Brown, told the New York Times that “I don’t think in the end, anybody here in our caucus wants to be on the wrong side of history.”

This uncanny ability to get in step with history is, of course, not limited to Democrats who are elected. For example, a recent Nicholas Kristof column, “The Wrong Side of History,” charged that if moderate Democrats “flinch” and health care reform fails, “they’ll be on the wrong side of history.”

In fact, it’s not limited to Democrats at all, as evidenced by John McCain’s comment on Face the Nation last June “that the United States needs to be on the ‘right side of history’ in responding to the disputed Iranian elections and ensuing protests.”

Thus history, it must be noted, does not have a narrow, one-track mind. Its commands, clearly visible to those standing on its right, i.e., left, side, are not limited to the enactment of ObamaCare; they extend over the full range of the liberal agenda.

For example, University of Chicago law professor Geoffrey Stone transmits the message from history’s lips to Huffington Post’s ears that all those who fail to accept “the moral analogy between discrimination against blacks and discrimination against gays … have simply blinded themselves to reason” and, you guessed it, “are on the wrong side of history.” (I have recently discussed this “moral analogy” and some questions it raises here.)

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