All of that is a little strange in light of the strikingly similar way that Steyn and “pass-the-damn-healthcare-bill” liberals understand the way the political world works in general, and how healthcare reform is likely to work in particular. Those liberals know perfectly well how unpopular ObamaCare currently is. They insist that liberal politicians should have the grit to pass it anyway because otherwise they'll squander a historic opportunity that may not come again for another generation. The theory is that, once they get used to it, Americans will grow to love ObamaCare as much as they now love Social Security and Medicare. What good are progressive politicians, these liberals ask, if they aren’t ready to stick their neck out in the name of progress when history calls?
When it comes to predicting the socio-psychological effect of ObamaCare’s enactment, Steyn couldn’t agree more. That puts him at odds with more complacent ideological comrades who believe that pushing “government-controlled” healthcare through in a reliably center-right country may well finish off liberalism as a governing ideology. Even if Democrats suffer a short-term electoral penalty by passing ObamaCare, Steyn warns, they’ll be laying the groundwork for political dominance in the long run by changing the relation between the people and the state:
Liberals are inclined to believe that the winds of history are at their back. They have a progressive reflex encoded in their ideological DNA that inclines them to presume that each generation is likely to be more enlightened, and therefore more liberal, than the last. Steyn’s conservatism is progressive liberalism’s mirror image; his reactionary reflex inclines him to presume that each generation will be more liberal, and therefore have less civic virtue, than the last. In this, it harks back to the pre-Reaganite conservatism of the 1950s, when people like William F. Buckley were determined to “stand athwart history, yelling Stop.” They thought history was moving in the same direction as liberals did and that the best they could hope for was to slow it down a little.“American exceptionalism would have to be awfully exceptional to suffer a similar expansion of government and not witness, in enough of the populace, the same descent into dependency and fatalism. As Europe demonstrates, a determined state can change the character of a people in the space of a generation or two.”
Of course, what liberals celebrate as a democratic majority collectively taking control of its healthcare destiny, Steyn deplores as the descent of a free people into “dependency and fatalism.” That’s a big difference, maybe the biggest difference there is. But before liberals dismiss Steyn out of hand, they should remember that he’s one of the few remaining conservatives reacting to the same world that they are.