Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dept of not supposed to say that

If you believe that the main reason for opposing universal health care is the narrow party interest of the US Republican party, it probably isn't very wise to tell people that.

Much better to keep up the agenda denial nonsense of claiming that universal health care is an important goal that would be much better achieved by waiting a year, or two, or until after re-election in 2012. Because there is nothing that voters like better than a politician who makes campaign pledges that they then abandon once in office, despite wining effective, filibuster-proof control of both houses of Congress.

The only reason to delay on health care would be if there was a division in the Democratic caucus that left them without a simple majority. Senate Democrats opposed to universal health care are not going to join a GOP filibuster. And it would not have any effect if they did. Just as the Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly, the Senate filibuster power is simply not sufficient to block a bill when the opposing party has the White House.

But what I find rather more interesting is the fact that the advice these GOP 'experts' give their own side is as bad and as misinformed as the opinion that they give the Democrats (and for that matter relied on to run the country, Michael Cannon from Cato quoting Norman Markowitz:

A “single payer” national health system – known as “socialized medicine” in the rest of the developed world – should be an essential part of the change that the core constituencies which elected Obama desperately need. Britain serves as an important political lesson for strategists. After the Labor Party established the National Health Service after World War II, supposedly conservative workers and low-income people under religious and other influences who tended to support the Conservatives were much more likely to vote for the Labor Party…

The shear ignorance of this statement is difficult to fathom. Now admittedly Markowitz is a Marxist, but the fact that so many right wing bloggers are repeating it as sage advice is instructive. In the first place, the term 'socialized medicine' is unique to US political discourse. The rest of the developed world does not use the term at all. Before Blair's 'New Labour', the British Labour party would have proudly described the NHS as a triumph of socialism and the Tories would have tried to change the subject. But they would not use the term 'socialized medicine' any more than they would use the terms 'pro-life' or 'pro-choice' as euphemisms for pro- and anti- positions in the abortion debate.

As for the idea that religious voters abandoned the Tory party because of the NHS, that is wrong on so many levels. The British Labour party was as much a product of the non-conformist churches as the union movement. The Church of England is sometimes referred to as the Tory party at prayer but it is not a political movement like the Southern evangelical churches are, indeed it is difficult to apply the word 'movement' to the established church.

British clergy do not issue the type of political screed that has become common in some US pulpits. Issues of conscience such as abortion, the death penalty and gay rights are decided on non-party votes. To the extent that the clergy has been involved in politics it has favored the left rather than the right.

The reason for the rise of the Labour party was the decline of the Liberal party. The reason for the decline of the right in the Tory party was their discredited support for Hitler prior to the war.

The closing factual blunder in the statement is that the UK Conservative party did not go into decline after the launch of the NHS. On the contrary, it made up ground in the election following the historic 1945 Labour landslide and won the next three elections. Labour did not win two successive full terms of office for the remainder of the century. Some decline!

While it is true that the Tory party did not try very hard to roll back the NHS along with the rest of 'socialism', that was because the NHS was and is popular. It is almost universally considered to be superior to the US model. The popular demand is for more services from the NHS, not less.

When a political movement is reduced to opposing policies in case they might be successful it is time to call it finished. The Tory party recovered after the 1945 landslide because they agreed not to challenge Labour's reforms. The Tory party continued to respect the post-war consensus right up until the Thatcher government came to power in 1979.

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