In the course of any important American political debate, the Left will invariably accuse conservatives of several things: that we are averse to “facts”; “anti-science”; guided by animus to the poor, minorities, or women (sometimes to all three at once); and above all, that we are “intransigent,” and bound by a “rigid ideology” that prevents us from judging political affairs with any intellectual honesty.
In no case was this phenomenon more apparent than the great health-care debate that gripped the nation early in Barack Obama’s presidency. The Right insisted the Affordable Care Act would be too expensive; not lower health care prices; lead to a more chaotic, confusing, and unpredictable health-care marketplace; cause millions upon millions of people to lose their health insurance; and that the health-care industry would likely reject a substantial number of the government-sanctioned health insurance plans.
Conservatives were roundly derided for all of these predictions. As it turned out, all were accurate: Obamacare is a genuinely dysfunctional and disastrous law. We were right and they were wrong.
In response, what have Democrats proposed as a fix? A “public option,” also known as government-run health insurance. In other words, the Right was correct about the systemic unworkability of Obamacare…and the Left has proposed to simply double down on it. This raises the obvious point: conservatives were right to be “intransigent.” In fact, we’re almost always right about it.
The Left Is Never Satisfied
This is not an obvious conclusion when liberals are perpetually bemoaning the demise of “moderate” Republicans, by which they mean “Republicans who will do things Democrats like.” There is an implied virtue in the political center, an intimation that, if the GOP will just “cut a deal” with President Obama or the Senate Democratic Caucus, then everyone will benefit.
In some very limited cases involving complex issues—immigration policy, for instance—this may be true. But for the most part it does not behoove conservatives to play ball on issues conservatives genuinely care about. We have seen, time and time again, whenever the Right loses a little bit of ground on core issues, the Left will always eventually want more.
The current Obamacare debate is one obvious example: the failure of this massive health-care law has simply led to demands for more health-care laws, and assuredly once the public option fails these demands will one day transform into full-throated support of single payer (does any serious thinker really doubt this?).
You can see this attitude elsewhere. In the gun-control debate, California already has some of the strictest gun-control measures on the books, yet its governor recently signed into law several sweeping new ones. We also see the growing demand from mainstream liberal commentators to confiscate American weapons in an Australia-style ban.
This attitude is evident in the LGBTQ crusades, in forcing wedding vendors to participate in gay weddings, and in Obamacare’s transgender mandate, which promises to violate the consciences of doctors across the country. It’s evident in government fiscal policy: famously, both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush agreed to raise taxes in exchange for spending cuts; the tax cuts came, but the spending cuts never did. You can also see this always-go-for-more attitude in matters like abortion: a few decades ago Democrats were committed to keeping abortion “rare,” while these days they’re committed to forcing taxpayers to pay for it.
One place we can expect the Left to grow ever-more fanatical is climate change. Liberals seem prepared to do just about anything necessary to keep temperatures from raising three-tenths of one degree Celsius over the next decade. One philosopher recently profiled by NPR wants to lower America’s fertility rate substantially by “penaliz[ing] new parents” with tax increases for each child born.
Supporters of this plan assure us “it’s not like China’s abusive one-child policy.” Yet given the reckless climate hysteria in which the Left regularly indulges, how long do we think it will be before the Democratic platform calls for forced abortions in order to save the world from “climate collapse?” I would give it a few decades, and I’m being generous.
Conservatives Need to Stop Lying to Themselves
These are all areas in which the Left has steadily gained ground over the years, and they obviously have no intention of stopping where they are, even as they have often assured conservatives it won’t go any further: that nobody wants to take your guns, Obamacare will not violate religious liberty, and government spending really will be reduced.
Here is the hard reality conservatives have to face: the Left is fully committed to remaking the country, and it will accomplish this by any means necessary. In most cases the Left uses a gradualist approach: a few new gun laws here, a new health-care regulation there. After a year or two, they’ll push a little further, and then a little more. In some cases, conservatives cede ground willingly, bewitched by the siren song of centrism. In other cases, the Left plows ahead through elective majorities or an activist Supreme Court.
In each of these cases, liberals have taken to heart the lesson of the dueling mega-states in George Orwell’s “1984”: “[T]he object of waging a war is always to be in a better position in which to wage another war.” The Left has figured this out. The Right must get serious about it. This does not mean conservatives have to be mean or mistrustful of their liberal friends and neighbors. It simply means we must recognize the stakes, and recognize the terms upon which we are fighting for those stakes.
Conservatives should commit themselves to being as intransigent and uncompromising in our beliefs as are liberals. It is the only way to begin to roll things back: from Obamacare, to our leviathan government, to the entire liberal worldview. The Left is always prepared to move on to the next battle, the next cultural or political victory. Let’s prepare ourselves for the same.