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October 31, 2013 10:02 AM Halloween Hymns of Hate

By Ed Kilgore

While this obviously isn’t a great moment in time for the smooth implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the triumphalist over-reaction by some folks on the Right is just bizarre. Fairly typical in this respect is Daniel Henninger at the Wall Street Journal, for whom the enrollment problems of Obamacare appears to be one of the great turning points in the history of humankind. I mean, really, check out these passages:

Let us try to understand clearly what is happening now with the Obama presidency. On display to everyone watching this week is not merely the failure of a federal website or a software program or Ms. Sebelius’s management skills. This is the failure of the very idea of progressive government. Not liberal government. Progressive government…..
In the 1990s, the American left, burdened with 90 years of unfortunate left-wing metaphors, rebranded itself in the U.S. as the “progressive movement.” Teddy Roosevelt invokes cheerier memories than Leon Trotsky. In the 2008 U.S. presidential election, the left rode to power with Barack Obama.
Mr. Obama is, without embarrassment, a man of the left. American progressives saw their win with Mr. Obama as the overthrowing of the postwar Democratic liberalism that culminated with the Clintons, a liberalism willing most of the time to coexist with markets, property and private enterprise. Progressives hated these accommodations. They were purer than that. He was purer than that. Together, they created ObamaCare.

Other than indicating that Mr. Henninger is spending far too much time watching or listening to Glenn Beck, this column, appearing in the official newspaper of the American business community, is just wildly hallucinogenic in multiple respects. I don’t care how many times Stuart Butler or Jim DeMint or Mitt Romney tries to obscure the fact, it won’t go away: the central principles of Obamacare were born at the Heritage Foundation and incubated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The idea of a system of quasi-universal health coverage via publicly subsidized private insurance combined with an individual purchasing mandate was eternally a center-right alternative to single payer. And far from representing a repudiation of The Clintons, the Affordable Care Act more closely resembled HRC’s 2008 health care proposal than Obama’s own, with both being self-consciously more private-sector friendly than the Clinton proposal of 1993.

I could go on and on, perhaps with a list of people who endorsed Barack Obama early and late in 2008 who could by no stretch of the imagination be called leftists. But I guess it doesn’t matter. Historians will someday ponder whether the ludicrously overwrought conservative reaction to the presidency of Barack Obama was mainly a product of the American Right’s own radicalization, or to those aspects of Obama’s persona that fit him perfectly for the part of “the Other.” Henninger’s hymn of hate includes this sophomoric slur: “Barack Obama may have spent a lifetime failing up, but eventually it’s just failure.” So it appears he’s internalized the “Affirmative Action President” meme, and perhaps doesn’t even grasp the bigotry it encourages (after all, most conservatives today categorically deny there is any such thing as “racism” unless it’s aimed at white people).

In any event, watching people like Henninger cackle with joy at Obamacare’s implementation issues is like observing the crowd reaction at a seventeenth-century witch-dunking. So I guess it’s appropriate for Halloween.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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