The second paragraph of Mr. Sullivan’s latest Political Encyclical is remarkable in that it demonstrates with absolute certainty his obsessive narcissism:
I know, I know. That word — as it has been reverse engineered by the modern GOP — no longer means in America what it once meant across the West, and I should probably stop pretending otherwise. I’m told repeatedly, and understandably, that my support for the long Anglo-American tradition of conservative political thought is quixotic, perverse, and largely counterproductive. Pragmatism, moderation, incrementalism, reform: These might be conservative virtues in principle, but in practice, the American right junked them years ago. I’m told I should admit that, in the current American context, I’m a de facto, Obama-loving leftist. To cheer the collapse of the brutal repeal of Obamacare has not an inkling of conservatism about it.
How many times dose Mr. Sullivan utter the word ‘I’ in the above paragraph? Seven times, in this short paragraph. His self-obsession renders him morally/politically/existentially myopic. His ‘I’ stands between him and the world made up of superfluous ‘others’, those persons and events are subject to his evaluation. Does he refer to others except by way of himself? A writer who is engaged with a world made up of other significant thinkers and political/moral actors must look to others as intellectual and moral reference points, as he does later in this first portion of his political commentary, yet the reader is struck by his focus on himself as sole arbiter.
Mr. Sullivan then moves to four exemplary Conservative thinker/actors:
So let me explain a little why I found this past week so encouraging. It represented, in my view, the triumph of reality over ideology. And conservatism — from Burke and Hume to Hayek and Oakeshott — has always been, at its core, a critique of ideology in favor of reality. The world is as it is, the conservative argues.
The examples of Conservative thinkers who favor ‘reality over ideology’ are Burke, who was saved by a 30,000 Pound bailout by the Crown, and then voted against the Poor Law. Hume , who with Smith endeavored to write a ‘Science of Man’ , in the Enlightenment Tradition-how was he a political Conservative? Hayek, who believed in voting rights for men over 45 years, and that The Market was the only viable form of knowledge. And Oakeshott who believed that the lower orders, and their political parties and leaders were only worthy of his withering contempt.
Then there is this:
Any attempt to drastically overhaul it, to impose a utopian vision onto a messy, evolving human landscape will not just fail, it will likely make things worse. To pretend that the present exists for no good reason — and can be repealed or transformed in an instant — is a formula for ruin. The leftist vision of perfect “social justice” is therefore as illusory and as pernicious as the reactionary’s dream of restoring a mythical past. And the great virtue of America’s deeply conservative Constitution is that it throws so many obstacles in the way of radical, ideological change — to the left or right — that it limits the harm that humans can do to themselves in moments of passion or certainty or in search of ideological perfection.
Mr. Sullivan’s long associations with Thatcherism, Neo-Conservatism and an etiolated form of Neo-Liberalism prove without doubt that he is politically addicted to the most pernicious forms of Utopianism, while he attacks ‘The Left’ as prima facae guilty of its own version . This act of political misdirection is the standard trope for Conservative Ideologues. All of this garnished by reference to the ‘deeply conservative Constitution’ .
This is simply the introductory material for Mr. Sullivan to review the Health Care question from a ‘Conservative’ view point, in sum, a potted history of that Conservative position.
And morally, American culture had already dispensed with the cruelty of allowing our fellow citizens to suffer and die because of a lack of resources. Ronald Reagan was in some ways the first to concede this. In 1986, he signed the law that made it illegal for hospitals to turn away the very sick if they could not pay for treatment. Once that core concession was made by the icon of the conservative movement — that the sick should always be treated in extremis — the logic of universal coverage was unstoppable.
The reader with an historical memory longer that the political revelation of Reaganism just has to marvel, again, at Mr. Sullivan’s political/historical ignorance. And morally, American culture had already dispensed with the cruelty of allowing our fellow citizens to suffer and die because of a lack of resources. Ronald Reagan was in some ways the first to concede this. The links that follow demonstrate that the ‘Conservative’ who led the way on Health Care was Richard Nixon. First a comparison of the ACA with the Nixon Plan titled:
‘Nixoncare vs. Obamacare: U-M team compares the rhetoric & reality of two health plans’
President Richard Nixon’s National Health Strategy (1971)
- All employers required to provide basic health insurance, including a range of specific coverage requirements
- Employees required to share the cost of insurance, up to a cap
- Insurance companies can only vary benefit packages to an extent
- Special insurance programs at reasonable rates for self-employed and others
- Replace most of Medicaid for poor families with a completely federal plan open to any family below a certain income level; cost-sharing rises with income.
Nixon’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan (1974)
- All employers must insure all full-time employees, with employee cost-sharing up to a cap, and federal subsidies to aid employers.
- Replace Medicaid with a plan open to anyone not eligible for employee health insurance or Medicare, as well as those who can’t afford their coverage
And then a news item with the headline:
‘Recalling the Nixon-Kennedy health plan’
Ted Kennedy, whom Nixon assumed would be his rival in the next election, made universal health care his signature issue. Kennedy proposed a single-payer, tax-based system. Nixon strongly opposed that on the grounds that it was un-American and would put all health care “under the heavy hand of the federal government.”
Instead, Nixon proposed a plan that required employers to buy private health insurance for their employees and gave subsidies to those who could not afford insurance. Nixon argued that this market-based approach would build on the strengths of the private system.
“Government has a great role to play, he said, “but we must always make sure that our doctors will be working for their patients and not for the federal government.”
Mr. Sullivan continues to exercise his ability to extemporize on his self-given themes of Nihilist Republicans who were opposed to the stolid, yet virtuous ‘Long Game’ of Obama. The last two paragraphs of Sullivan’s kowtowing to Obama’s ‘Conservatism’ are a model of what political ass kissing, not to speak of ideological propinquity, and resort to a cartoon reference can produce.
Obama, in fact, was the conservative in all this — nudging and amending, shaping and finessing as American society evolved — while the GOP flamed out in a reactionary dead end. But Obama’s conservatism has nonetheless brought about an epochal, defining achievement for American liberalism: a robust American consensus in favor of universal health insurance. Yes, he could.
It is hard to overstate the salience of this victory in Obama’s long, long game — and perhaps we are still too close to events to see it as clearly as we should. But here it is: a testament to the skills and vision and tenacity of our greatest living president, whose political shadow completely eclipses the monstrous, ridiculous fool who succeeded him. Like the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, we’ve seen this story many times before in the last eight and a half years. And we also know the ending.
There are two more subjects to cover in this weekly Sullivan Political Free Association, but at this point in my reading, I must confess, I’ve run out of patience with Andy Divine!