Roger’s Rules

The Uses of Fear

Over at Armavirumque, the weblog of The New Criterion, my colleague James Bowman has some thoughtful reflections on why ObamaCare seems poised — as of this writing, anyway — to crash and burn. Why, to employ Sen. Jim DeMint’s colorful image, does the “reform” (i.e., the government takeover) of health care seem to be shaping up as Obama’s “Waterloo”? After all, as Jim Bowman points out, the American people may have grumbled at Obama’s earlier incursions, but in the end they were willing to swallow multifarious assaults: the take over of G.M., the famous patent-pending, non-stimulating stimulus package, Obama’s World Tyrants Tour, replete with a bit of obeisance to sheik what’s-his-name, as well as what Jim accurately describes as the “fashionable anguish about global warming and the absurd, job-killing ‘cap and trade’ legislation designed to deal with it,” not to mention the “grandstanding over Guantanamo and the coddling of terrorists,” etc. etc.

Why has the issue of health care summoned people from the La-Z-boy to townhall meetings all over the country? Jim’s answer, in a word, is fear. The arrogance of politicians may have something to do with it — there have been some spectacular exhibitions of that: my personal favorite Rep Sheila Jackson, who took a call on her cell phone as a constituent was asking her a question. But the revulsion against arrogance only seasoned an already boiling stew of revolt. People look around and they sense the ground shifting under them. On the issue of health care, Obama’s promise to “fundamentally transform the United States of America” suddenly seems to promise not hope and change, but change and deprivation. People don’t like it. They are afraid — rightly so — and they react according. “The lesson,” Jim writes, “is one of the healthy respect any politician owes to people’s fears. Anyone who tries to accomplish things by making people ashamed to fear more than they hope is bound to come up against the natural limitations of that strategy — and, it seems, sooner rather than later.” Amen to that.