Obama Gets It Right

I think it is important to give credit where credit is due. Regular readers know that I have been critical of President Obama in this column. Doubtless there will be future occasions for disagreement. But the president got one big thing right a few days ago, and it is incumbent upon fair-minded people to acknowledge his candor and percipience: the Massachusetts Senate race really was a  referendum on the Obama agenda.

What is the Obama agenda?  All eyes have been focused on the proposed bills to transform the way health care is managed, delivered, and paid for in the United States. The Democrats scored a rhetorical triumph by getting everyone, opponents as well as supporters, to refer to this proposed government takeover of medicine as “health care reform.”  “Reform”?  What is being proposed is “health care reform” in approximately the sense that Stalin’s collectivization of agriculture in the late 1920s was “agricultural reform.” That effort to bring hope and change to the Kulaks succeeded in what President Obama described as his goal of  “spreading the wealth around,” though not, perhaps, in precisely a way that the local (de)population appreciated.

The fate of the Democratic proposals to collectivize medicine is a big issue, no doubt about it. And I for one hope that Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts last night will put the brakes on that ruinous piece of stealth-socialism masquerading as “reform.”

It is important, though, to recognize that the effort to expropriate the delivery and financing of health care — let’s stop calling it “reform” — is one  spoke in the wheel of the Obama Offensive. What this administration has been about in its first year includes the collectivization of medicine.  But that is only one part of a much larger goal, a goal adumbrated by Governor Mitch Daniels when he spoke of the Obama administration’s “shock and awe statism.”

This past summer, Senator Jim DeMint suggested that, were Obama foiled in his plans to collective medicine, the defeat would prove to be his “Waterloo.” Perhaps.  Were the effort to collectivize medicine fail, I suspect it would be more like the  battle of Leipzig: a defeat, but not a final defeat. I take the President’s threat to “double down” in the face of a victory by Scott  Brown seriously. My PJM colleague Richard Fernandez is probably right that “The fundamental theme of 2010 will be a struggle for power.”   As Fernandez, observes, “The polarization which began in early 2009 has increased rather than diminished. . . .  Massachusetts is not the last, but the first in a series of meeting engagements between two rival factions. My own sense is that fundamental issues are now at stake.”