In case you haven't been paying attention to the moment-by-moment maneuvering over health care, the latest twist is a suggestion that the House might pass the bill using a parliamentary device known as a "self-executing rule," which works like this: Instead of having a vote on the Senate bill and then a vote on the package of fixes to the Senate bill (the latter of which would then be passed by the Senate), the House will have one combined vote, in which they will "deem" the Senate bill passed and pass the package of fixes.
As much as politicians like to imagine themselves men and women of action, what they mostly do is talk. They talk to the cameras, they talk to constituents, they talk to contributors, they talk to each other. It's almost impossible to be a successful politician without the ability to lodge words and images in the public mind.
The result is that a really adept politician has to be part linguist and part semiotician. This is particularly true when you're out of power and there's so little you can actually accomplish. As Republicans are faced with the possibility that this week, Democrats might actually succeed in passing their most critical domestic initiative, is their mastery of the symbolic really enough?
Imagine that you are strongly opposed to abortion rights, and what you'd like is for all abortions to be illegal. Then you're faced with two alternatives:
1. In Path 1, federal funds will not be used to give anyone abortion coverage, but the number of abortions will either stay the same or increase.
2. In Path 2, federal funds will not be used to give anyone abortion coverage, but the number of abortions will decline.