There were sound reasons to vote against Health Care. It does nothing to curb costs. Many of the 200-or-so Republican "ideas" Speaker Pelosi boasted about including in the bill, we will soon find out, are gimmicks tossed in by lobbyists to make the health care industry happier with it, not to make it more bipartisan. My premiums will continue to rise faster than inflation and when Medicare time arrives I will find my coverage reduced. My income taxes will go up to help pay for someone else's health care. Big Pharma is happy: they get an increase of 30 million potential customers while Americans will continue to pay the highest prices in the world for drugs. For the Democratic Party to come up with this piece of legislation, with all of its "cornhusker kickback," "Louisiana Purchase," and countless other special interest provisions, is another sad reminder that our political system is now thoroughly corrupted--in both parties--by the growing Rule of Money, rather than the rule of law.
On the other hand, pathetic as the Health Care bill may seem to the naked eye, it nevertheless represents a continuation of the flame, however flickering, of modern liberalism. The passage of Health Care represents the first serious social achievement by the Democratic Party since the mid-1960s. And just like social security, equal treatment under the law for minorities, and medicare, universal health care will become one of the very few untouchables in American politics. After three decades of being indoctrinated about the marvels of unregulated free markets, the evils of Big Government, the patriotic glories of tax cuts to the rich, and the seeds of Liberty that spring forth when government services are privatized, the public, believe me, will ignore all of this dogma as so much empty verbiage, grab their newly-found entitlement to health care, and protect it with the same ferocious conviction as an NRA gun owner confronting a gun control proposal. And serious protection of this entitlement will require serious government regulation which will inevitably ensue.
This is precisely why Republican Party leaders invested such gut-wrenching, sometimes hysterical, energy in fighting the very idea of universal health care even though they might have made it even more palatable to special interest groups they represent had they gone along. They understood that no matter how much some Republicans yearn to turn back the clock on this vote, punishing those who voted for it and talking of repeal, in the end Republicans will accept universal health care as a given, as they do social security, equal treatment of minorities, and medicare--measures they also once voted against. Health Care passed because Americans overwhelmingly want universal coverage, just like citizens everywhere, in spite of all denials to the contrary. And the idea of universal coverage passed--and will survive--in spite of the administration's self-serving fawning for months over enemies of health care, in spite of the lobbyists best efforts to leave consumers with nothing, and in spite of the mantra, sung endlessly by the same people who promoted trillion-dollar wars of choice and trillion dollar bailouts to the greediest and least patriotic corporations, that we cannot afford it, just can't, no sir, just can't, we can't.
So Harry Teague, alone among his New Mexico colleagues in Washington, voted against the tide of history, as well as against his party leaders. It was a predictable vote, after he inexplicably voted for cap-and-trade last Spring, a measure favored by Speaker Pelosi, but not in the oil patches of the state. I doubt whether this vote will affect his chances of re-election one way or the other. Liberal voters are highly unlikely to vote for Steve Pearce. The cap and trade vote was far more damaging to Teague. But Congressmen do a lot besides casting votes: they try to bring the bacon back home, they try to please constituents through their field offices, and they help party organizations with fund raisers, speeches, and appearances. It is too early to tell just what factors will determine the outcome of the Pearce-Teague race this year. A lot will depend on just how Pearce, who served three terms in the same position, decides to present his challenge.