As a matter of raw partisan politics, President Barack Obama and the Democrat Congress may have no choice but to resort to the nuclear option to pass their increasingly unpopular plan to take over American health care. In the teeth of intense public opposition, congressional Democrats are having a hard time cobbling together votes on their own side of the aisle.
Meanwhile, the same provisions that have led most Americans to oppose the takeover -- the costs, the rationing plans, the government mandates and controls -- will ensure almost unanimous Republican opposition in Congress.
Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) are left with two options: Scrap their takeover plans and start over with a more modest and understandable proposal, or ram their massive health care takeover through Congress in the middle of a recession without anyone having so much as read the 1,200-page bill.
After a month of raucous town hall meetings revealed the American people's skepticism and even hostility to this socialist experiment, passage of the very bill fueling the public outrage might seem unlikely. Indeed, the current level of national engagement on the issue of health reform is precisely the kind of elevated and informative debate Obama promised to cultivate during his campaign.
Exciting ideas such as lawsuit abuse reform, interstate insurance competition and tax fairness in the individual health insurance market are gaining attention and popularity every day. My own Health Care Freedom Plan has been highlighted in newspapers across the country, and the same goes for other alternatives. All the pieces are in place now for a true national debate on health care.
But Washington Democrats don't want a real debate. The president's plan, remember, was to rush through the takeover before the August debate ever happened. They feared that the more people learned about what was in those thousand-page proposals, the less people would like them. This fear was realized amid plummeting poll numbers in August and contentious town hall meetings.
So the media are now reporting that Democrat leaders, bent on taking over health care at any cost, are plotting to set aside customary procedure by using parliamentary dirty tricks to ram through their multitrillion-dollar health care takeover, whether the American people like it or not. If Obama and congressional Democrats do indeed pull the trigger and go nuclear, it will not be against congressional Republicans or moderates in the Democratic Party. It will be against the American public, who have had it with politicians in both parties whose solution to every problem has been to grow government and their own power.
If and when this happens, the Democrats may suffer at the ballot box, but even if they lose in the near term, they know that eventually they will come back to power and will again be able to build on their socialist experiment. Lose the battle; win the war.
Labor leader Samuel Gompers, when asked what organized labor really wanted, famously answered, More. That just about sums up the goal of the left more broadly. If the government takes over health care, does anyone seriously believe that will be it? That no other industry or company or service will become the next target? Has liberalism anywhere ever been satisfied with its current level of control over human and economic activity? Why do you think government grows as fast and as large as it does? To some, government can never have enough control.
If health care, the most personal and private service imaginable, can be taken over using the nuclear option, what's to stop a future Congress from using it to take over other aspects of our lives? Washington certainly has not shown restraint in taking over car companies, banks and the mortgage industry.
Government power is a terrifying thing and ought to be used sparingly and transparently. If the government can seize freedom in health care using obscure tricks in the dead of night, how can Americans have confidence that our other freedoms are safe? What will Washington go nuclear on next?
Ultimately, the specific issue singled out for government control -- bailouts, energy, education or religious liberty -- isn't the main concern. The real target of this nuclear option is freedom itself.