From The System:
Had any part of the Clinton plan passed that Congress in any form, Gingrich and his closest conservative allies believed, their dreams for forging a militarily conservative future would "have been cooked," as a key Gingrich strategist later explained. It would have been the final nail in the coffin of the American marketplace resulting in a social-welfare state like Britain or Canada, creating greater public dependency on government and a government-run plan, and a stronger allegiance of voters to majority Democrats, who provided them their benefits. Only by controlling Congress with a new conservative Republican majority could the final goals of their "Republican Revolution" be achieved: to break the public dependency on Democratic tax-funded government programs; "defund the government" as they put it, and in so doing, destroy the liberal constituency groups; and permit the flowering of an antigovernment, antitax, entrepreneurial nation. All these aims were threatened by the Clinton plan.
We've gone from losing a battle that both sides believed would codify the triumph of Democratic ideals to fighting to save the most cherished program of the New Deal. So we've gone from owning the debate and losing in our attempt to laminate a Democratic society to defending the tangible core of our philosophy. We've gone form offense to defense, from having the momentum to trying to stop that of others.
This debate, it needs to be understood, is not about the solvency of Social Security. Nor, as Biden put it, is it about the legitimacy of Social Security. It's about the role of the government, and whether our society should have fail-safe mechanisms that care for those who need help and assure the security of those who take risks, or whether we should return to the pre-New Deal era of Social Darwinism where citizens sink or swim under the uninterested gaze of a bored government. That's why Joe Lieberman's potential betrayal is not a policy defection, but a repudiation of his party. That's why this isn't about compromising on private accounts. Read the quote again -- they couldn't let any iteration of the bill pass Congress without all its philosophical goals winning the day. And neither can we.
Is that clear?