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I Used to Be a Fan of James Taranto

I used to be a fan of James Taranto's Best of the Web Today column from The Wall Street Journal.  He was witty and seemed take a no-nonsense, rational view of politics from a conservative's perspective.  He even occasionally defended Obama against his critics (e.g., regarding the birther conspiracy or his response to the Tiller shooting and the shootings outside the Little Rock Army recruiting center).  However, he has seemed to lose his even-handed-ness and rationality over Obamacare during the last few months.  It began to seem like I was reading the writings of just another political hack.

His two columns since the House passed the Senate's health insurance reform bill have continued this trend as he writes with the bias, lack of objectivity, and near delusion for which he usually castigates others.

From yesterday's column:

Expansions of the welfare state have always been controversial, but this is unprecedented: massive social legislation passed by a single party over the objections of a clear majority of voters.

Objections of a clear majority of voters?  Though conservatives had perhaps convinced themselves otherwise, about half of us either favored the bill or thought it didn't think it went far enough.  A new Gallup poll today indicates that, by a 49 to 40 margin, more Americans think the bill's passage was a good thing than think it was bad.  Nate Silver has more on why the talk of going against the people's will doesn't hold water.  Nate also highlighted a couple months ago something that I've observed in my personal interactions: people have generally lacked basic knowledge about what the House and Senate bills actually contained.  Furthermore, the Republican opposition wasn't really based on the content of the bill either (which is fairly characterized as a moderate Republican's bill), but rather was primarily a strategy for reversing the party's electoral fortunes.

Back to Taranto...from today's column:

So Republican unity was an accomplishment--but not much of one. The GOP, their numbers severely depleted by the 2006 and '08 elections, simply did not have the power to prevent a determined legislative majority from imposing its will on the nation.

Remind me again.  How did the GOP's numbers get severely depleted and the Democrats get a legislative majority?  Oh yeah, that's right, it was partly because the Democrats campaigned on health care reform (among other issues) and were elected by the nation.  Now, as that majority delivers on its election promise and passes legislation by majority rule...democracy has somehow now become an imposition of will?!?

Also, over and over again during the last few months Taranto has cited news stories from the U.K. and Canada in an attempt to discredit the proposed reforms.  However, among our peers (all of which have some form of universal health care), the U.K. and Canada are two examples that are among the least similar to our reforms (here's a tool for comparing us pre-reform to several of our peers; Obamacare is most similar to the Swiss system).  That's the kind of fallacious editorializing that normally gets Taranto's knickers in a twist.  Maybe, now that the reforms have been passed, he'll be more like himself.  I hope so.


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