ObamaCare: process, structural imperative, and the velvet coup
David Harsanyi, the Denver Post:
as Democrats continue to display a creative knack for legislative swindling, a question has emerged: Are voters, by and large, concerned about the “process,” or do they care more about outcomes?
This query becomes more significant as Democrats continue to abandon their defense of “deem and pass” — where the House deems a bill passed rather than actually voting on it — and make a far more dangerous case.
How we pass legislation doesn’t matter, they say, as long as the cause is just. Don’t worry, in the end you’ll learn to love it. (Boy, I wonder if history offers any clues to where that kind of logic leads.)
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer says, “We talk a lot about process in this town. ‘So what?’ says the American public … . ‘What did you do for me and my family to make my life more secure and better and greater quality?”
President Barack Obama believes citizens are indifferent to “procedural” spats. “I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what the procedural rules are in the House or Senate,” Obama explained to Fox News’ Brett Baier, asserting that it was frustrating to see the “focus entirely” on process. “It was ugly when Republicans were in charge,” he went on to say, “and it was ugly when Democrats were in charge.”
Actually, in the case of health care legislation, the ugly substance of the legislation creates the ugly process. The two issues are inseparable. The process is corrupted as the advocates have no other path for passage.
This particular process, cobbled together in an effort to bypass the will of voters and protect cowardly legislators, then becomes vitally important.
No wonder Obama admits, perhaps unwittingly, that he’s uneasy about all the focus on what’s going on. To deflect attention, he turns to a childish rationalization: Hey, those guys did it, too!
Let’s concede that Democrats are correct in calling out duplicitous and hypocritical GOPers. Does dredging up instances of Republican chicanery now validate the use of your own scams to pass “the most important piece of social legislation since the Social Security Act” (the president’s own characterization)?
Even on those terms, Democrats have yet to make a solid case. After all, not all legislation is created equal. No Republican “deem and pass” case comes remotely close to being used for the “the most important bill most of us will ever pass” (per Speaker Nancy Pelosi).
On Thursday, Democrats voted down a bipartisan attempt to force Congress to take an old-fashioned up-or-down vote on the Senate health care bill, as they would on nearly any other significant piece of legislation.
Perhaps the House will still elect to vote on the Senate bill as is without any gimmicks. If not, the constitutionality of “deem and pass” in this configuration will almost certainly be challenged.
However the challenge pans out, we shouldn’t forget that process matters. Sometimes process is vital in protecting the American people from the abuses of majoritarians and crusading tyrants. Other times, it is used by those very people to circumvent pesky constitutional restrictions.
And in this case, the process is only a reflection of the ugly legislation that makes it possible.
My critique of John McCain was that, while he held many conservative policy positions, his underlying ideological assumptions would almost certainly lead him to support statist solutions, and so adopt (as a “bipartisan”) any number of statist compromises. In short, McCain had many of the assumptions of the progressives wired into his thinking — that is, wired into the structure of his thought processes.
As you’ll no doubt recognize, I’ve warned continuously about those who hold conservative policy positions but who simultaneously embrace faulty linguistic ideas that, insofar as those ideas provide much of the structure to the reasoning for those who adopt them, will lead them inevitably toward progressivism (even as they may or may not fight it). To many of these people, the move leftward seems a kind of intellectual imperative — for years and years, we’ve been aware of the tendency of conservative SCOTUS justices to slide left — and in a way it is just that: if you adopt the underlying kernel assumptions of progressivism as they become increasingly institutionalized, it makes sense that your process would rely on those assumptions.
To fix the process, you must first correct the assumptions that inform that process. Otherwise, garbage in, garbage out.
In the case of health care, the assumption that process itself doesn’t matter — that the ends justify the means — is the assumption that needs correction if the legislative process is to work as intended.
“Bracketing” the correct assumption — namely, that the process has been carefully designed to provide a check on the kind of overreach we’re now witnessing — is a convenient way to circumvent the Constitution, and so in effect, to attempt a government overthrow by way of creating precedent for extra-Constitutional legislation.
If McCain-Feingold and Kelo taught us anything, it is that we cannot count on the Supreme Court to make the necessary corrections. So if this abomination of process passes, the time for civil disobedience begins that day.