It's perfectly proper - even admirable - to demonstrate and argue against the new administration's ideas, but it's also worth recalling that this plan in its essentials was an integral part of the president's campaign platform and his party's effective manifesto. It was debated ad nauseam last year, and Obama won by a hefty margin. The tone of these protests suggests that this is some wild power-grab. It isn't. It's a centrist and not-too-ambitious plan to fulfill a clear campaign pledge as responsibly as possible within a sensible fiscal framework.
The protestors keep saying that they want their country back. Sorry, my fellow small-governmenters, but this country is a democracy, and you didn't lose your country, you just lost an election. You had your chance for eight years. You blew it, and you lost. What Obama is doing is what he was elected to do. The principled response is not a massive, extremist-riddled hissy fit a few months in, but a constructive set of proposals to build on universal care for a more market-friendly and cost-conscious system in the future. You have to win some political credibility for that; and then you have to beat the man you lost so badly to last year. That's the civil and civilized way forward for the right. It also seems, alas, to be the one they are currently refusing to take.
Sounds about right. Right?
But he also wrote this today:
Maybe I'm being too optimistic, but one effect Obama has had on the right is to galvanize its small government, balanced budget wing and cool off the Christianist boilerplate. I haven't noticed the tea-partiers going on and on about gays getting married for example, or cracking down on drugs. Yes, abortion remains an issue for some - but it is hardly front and center. And yes, there are the Dobbsian slights at illegal immigrants. But again, this is a minor theme. All of this, to my mind, could be healthy in the long run. Heaven knows what else would have pushed the GOP off its theocratic rails, but Obama's cultural conciliation has worked in a way. Economics is again the focus. And a small-government party that is not just an expression of cultural panic could conceivably wrestle its way out of the Bush legacy in time.
Of course, the right is a large coalition; and I'm not saying that the tea-partiers wouldn't accept any number of anti-gay moves if they won back power with the religious right. Many are anti-gay, but many who aren't accept the demonization of gays as the price to pay for political power in such a coalition. Nonetheless, to see the parties re-orient around the critical questions of the size and role of government is encouraging.
DougJ at Balloon Juice had it about right when he said, "I want some of whatever Sully is smoking today"