Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell may not realize what they've done, but they've tipped their hand. Yes, everyone knows what they are doing anyway, but they have all but opened up the books to let people see the tiny man behind the curtain. So far, the health care debate has been a lot of posturing and complaining about "waste." Well, as someone smarter than me once said, "one man's garbage is another man's treasure."
You see, the two party system is really hiding three or four major factions within this great republic. The health care debate (and other timely debates like the war in Afghanistan) have helped crystallize the differences between these groups. While Gingrich and McConell may not realize what they've done with their call repeal the health care bill (before it is passed), but they have done everyone a huge favor. See, these debates rarely take place in the halls of Congress, but they do take place on the campaign trail and the in the voting booth. It comes at a good time for 2010 and 2012.
The so-called teabagger group represents one group of conservatives. The intellectual wing of that group we may call "classic conservatives." These are basically your social and economic libertarians. They don't want government to do anything but protect us and maybe educate us on a minimal level. They are the Ebenezer Scrooges of American politics. This hit home for me when I saw the George C. Scott version of "A Christmas Carol" over the holidays. Scrooge has an offhand remark about wanting to get rid of the excess population. There is certainly an element of that in the health care debate.
Of course, it would be wrong and foolish to paint every classic conservative as Scrooge. Some mirror the Scrooge after the ghosts visit him. They firmly believe private charities would do a better job than the government of taking care of the poor. The end result is that they favor neither social welfare programs or corporate welfare programs. Business should survive or die on its own just like average ordinary citizens. With the extra tax revenue we save we could buy better health care coverage, take care of our fellow man, and provide for our own retirement.
The next group is the neoconservatives. They are interestingly sounding like budget hawks now even though they don't care for a balanced budget anymore than progressives do. That is to say that both groups do care to a certain extent, but they both have priorities that get in the way. Interestingly enough, this is where the battle is really taking place in Congress and the White House right now. Progressives want to help those that are struggling because they believe that will ultimately help our economy and budget down the road. Neoconservatives want to help business stabilize itself and want to make sure we are successful abroad so that we can get more favorable energy deals (oil) and open up new markets by converting totalitarian regimes in democratic societies.
The final group of people are the so-called blue dog Democrats. They are somehow a cross between progressives and neoconservatives. As Harry Truman once said, "when people have a choice between a Republican and a Democrat that acts like a Republican they will choose the Republican every time." The more things change the more things remain the same. You have someone like Mary Landrieu who represents the state where my in-laws live. She's trying to balance three different constituencies at once. She has a strong Catholic population opposed to abortion and similarly conservative on other social matters. She has a lot of folks that stand to benefit from programs like the new health care bill, and she has economic conservatives that see people around them living off the government. Instead of standing for what she believes, she chooses to tap dance around all three.
This kind of debate is ultimately good for voters. It shows them where they representatives stand in the debate and allows them to choose accordingly. Otherwise, you have another election with astroturf issues that get people riled up for nothing. It's time that we allow people to choose between three points of view that are all reasonable on their face. While we may have made up our mind here, there are some that have not.