WASHINGTON — This report on the State of Conservatism comes at the end of an annus mirabilis for conservatives. In 2013, they learned that they may have been wasting much time and effort.
Hitherto, they have thought that the most efficient way to evangelize the unconverted was to write and speak, exhorting those still shrouded in darkness to read conservatism’s most light-shedding texts. Now they know that a quicker, surer method is to have progressives wield power for a few years. This will validate the core conservative insight about the mischiefs that ensue when governments demonstrate their incapacity for supplanting with fiats the spontaneous order of a market society.
It is difficult to recall and hard to believe that just three months ago some conservatives, mirroring progressives’ lack of respect for the public, considered it imperative to shut down the government in order to stop Obamacare in its tracks. They feared that once Americans got a glimpse of the law’s proffered subsidies, they would embrace it. Actually, once they glimpsed the law’s details, they recoiled.
Counterfactual history can illuminate the present, so: Suppose in 2012, Barack Obama had told the truth about the ability of people to keep their health plans. Would he have been re-elected? Unlikely. Suppose in 2012, Chief Justice John Roberts, instead of rewriting the health care law to save it, had been the fifth vote for overturning it. Would Obama be better off today? Probably.
In 2013, the face of progressivism became Pajama Boy, the supercilious, semi-smirking, hot-chocolate-sipping faux-adult who embodies progressives’ belief that life should be all politics, all the time = come on, everybody, spend your holidays talking about health care. He is who progressives are.
They are tone-deaf in expressing bottomless condescension toward the public and limitless faith in their own cleverness. Both attributes convinced them that Pajama Boy would be a potent persuader, getting young people to sign up for the hash that progressives are making of health care. As millions find themselves ending the year without insurance protection and/or experiencing sticker shock about the cost of policies the president tells them they ought to want, a question occurs: Have events ever so thoroughly and swiftly refuted a law’s title? Remember, it is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Finally, a regularly recurring fever of progressive indignation about the name of Washington’s professional football team again waned without success, which means Oklahoma will not have to change its name. “Oklahoma” is a compound of two Choctaw language words, “okla” meaning people, and “homma” meaning red.
George Will writes for the Washington Post; by email at: email@example.com.