For all the partisan back-and-forth over the measures Barack Obama has taken to address the economic crisis, the biggest battle of his first term -- and the one that could determine whether he gets a second -- is just now ramping up. If Obama can reform this disaster of a health-care system and do what Bill Clinton couldn't, then his place in history will be assured. It already appears that the administration has studied the failures of 1993. But what will really determine health care's outcome is what reform opponents do, and the contours of their campaign are starting to take shape.
Before the 2004 election, no small number of progressives were heard to say to their friends, "If George W. Bush gets re-elected, I'm moving to Canada." With but a few isolated exceptions, they weren't serious -- just expressing their exasperation that a majority of their fellow citizens could sign up for another four years of what was already a disastrous presidency. Conservatives saw the sentiment as yet more evidence of liberals' shaky loyalty to the Land of the Free.
Over the last few months, progressives have had a lot of fun ridiculing the right. New media stars like Glenn Beck and Rep. Michele Bachman of Minnesota bring before the public a spectacle of idiocy and craziness that is truly wondrous to behold. Then there are the conservatives who believe that when one of the last moderates you have defects to the other party, it's good news demonstrating that you're poised for a comeback.
"How can they possibly think that?" It's a sentiment you've probably expressed at one time or another when witnessing the wrong-headedness of people on the other side of a political debate. And it comes up not just on matters of philosophy but on matters of fact. It's not just politicians and pundits anymore: We're seeing substantial portions of the public coming to positions that seem absurd or reprehensible -- and that they might not have believed just a short time ago.
Now that you've had an entire week to get over the trauma of filing your tax return, it might be a good time to step back from all the overheated rhetoric and acknowledge a few important facts about being American in these troubled times. No, we don't suffer under a terribly burdensome, confiscatory tax regime. And yes, our taxes actually buy us some pretty important stuff. But you'd never know that, given just how crazy the coming of April 15 makes some people. Depending on who's in the White House, that is.