Republicans have had many different reactions to the passage of health-care reform. But there seems to be a common strain running through them that might be described as "This can't be happening!!!" Just as so many of them couldn't bring themselves to see Barack Obama as a legitimately elected president, many can't bring themselves to see a piece of legislation they so vehemently opposed as having been legitimately enacted into law.
So they're continuing to complain about procedural details and trying to come up with new procedural rationales to undo it. Among them, the absurd claim that the fixes couldn't be passed through reconciliation because through some tortured logic they might affect Social Security (the Senate parliamentarian quickly ruled against them on that one). They're filing lawsuits to try to get the Supreme Court to declare the reform unconstitutional. They say over and over again, with increasing desperation, that the American people are opposed to the reform -- as though that had some kind of practical implication even if it were true. And that's not even mentioning those who are resorting to violence and threats, veiled or otherwise.
But here's the thing: Sometimes, democracy's tough. You vote on Election Day but your candidate can lose. Then you have to be governed by a guy you didn't vote for, and that can really suck. I feel your pain -- remember George W. Bush? I really didn't like him at all. And the same thing happens in Congress: 535 representatives and senators get elected, and when legislation is introduced, they vote on it. The side with the most votes wins. Then you have to live under that law, even if it's not what you wanted.
That's the democratic bargain. We believe in free speech -- even if it means we have to put up with people saying things that make us want to punch them in the face. We believe in freedom of religion -- even if it means we have to put up with people getting protection for their idiotic beliefs. We believe that if someone is accused of a crime, he should have a fair trial -- even if that means that some very bad people get fair trials. We believe that the people ought to choose their rulers, even if the people sometimes make decisions we find incredibly wrong -- did I mention George W. Bush? And we have a legislative system in which votes are taken, one side wins, and the other side loses -- and it sticks whether we happen to like the outcome or not.
Or at least that's what we thought we all believed. If Republicans want to pledge to repeal health-care reform if they win back Congress, more power to them. They can make their case and see if the voters agree. But when they keep finding new ways to claim that this legislation isn't legitimate, all they're demonstrating is that they don't really believe in democracy.
-- Paul Waldman