Conservatives on universal health coverage

I like reading David Frum’s blog posts. A lot of the time, he makes more sense to me than the “Obama is selling us out” wing of the left blogosphere. There’s probably some underlying craziness with him, but at the very least, he seems to be a high-functioning conservative.

I recommend the post “Should Republicans Endorse Universal Health Coverage?” for a broad sampling of often reasonable self-described conservative opinion on health care. What I find interesting is that it runs the gamut from opinions not unlike my own to “The U.S. has a system of universal coverage now – it’s called `show up at the emergency room'” (from a Politico roundtable regular, natch). I don’t think you’d see anything like that diversity of opinion among self-described liberals on this topic. What does it actually mean to be a self-described conservative now? Does it mean anything at all?

Update. I am *not* saying that diversity of opinion is in any way, shape, or form a good thing. There’s also more diversity of opinion on the right about the age of the earth and whether or not the rapture is imminent. And there’s far too much diversity of opinion in many spheres about whether vaccines cause autism.

73 replies
  1. 1
    Aaron says:

    His appearance on Bill Moyers was – dare I say – rather reasonable.

    His positions, while I may not agree with all of them, at least seem to be offered in good faith and he has a fairly astute political eye. All of this being said, I can see why he was virtually cast out of the Republican party. There is simply no room for debate when there is politics to be had.

  2. 2
    cleek says:

    What does it actually mean to be a self-described conservative now?

    it means you’re a Death Eater.

  3. 3
    Crashman06 says:

    Didn’t he come up with the whole “Axis of Evil” phrase? That wasn’t exactly nuanced and thoughtful, though maybe he’s changed his stripes over the last couple years…

  4. 4
    Pangloss says:

    Given the GOP’s rabid support of the Second Amendment, it was only a matter of time until they found themselves formed into a circular firing squad.

  5. 5
    Warren Terra says:

    Frum has spent the last couple of years appearing to be an unusually sane, honest, and reasonable Republican. Thus, needless to say, he appears to have no influence outside the liberal intelligentsia.

  6. 6
    El Cid says:

    I’d actually rather read the weekly writings of actual tyrant (former?) Fidel Castro than the bullshit spinnings of David Frum. I guess that’s how we’re different.

  7. 7
    Craig says:

    This whole fucking thing, in a nutshell:

    “We have only to look at Europe, or North of the Border, or to Medicare and Medicaid, to see what the assumption that government will require and provide healthcare to all citizens does to conservative parties. They become unconservative.”

    It’s not about what’s best for America, it’s about principles, man. Conservatives are the new DFH’s, unable to see anything past the shadows of their own assholes.

  8. 8
    Warren Terra says:

    @ Crashman, #3
    He did coin “axis of hate” (probably; Gerson also claimed credit), but left the White House in ’03 or ’04 and has seemed quite rational speaking for himself rather than scripting Dubya.

  9. 9
    gex says:

    @Warren Terra: Frum quite recently laid out a set of circumstances he claims allow for assassinating the President. They include 1) being personally convinced the President is a fascist and 2) being certain that the President has *thought* about something you are convinced is fascist or socialist.

    Not to contradict you though. The standards for “an unusually sane, honest, and reasonable Republican” are quite low at this point in time.

  10. 10
    gex says:

    @Warren Terra: Frum quite recently laid out a set of circumstances he claims allow for assassinating the President. They include 1) being personally convinced the President is a fascist and 2) being certain that the President has thought about something you are convinced is fascist or soshulist.

    Not to contradict you though. The standards for “an unusually sane, honest, and reasonable Republican” are quite low at this point in time.

    (Reposted because of the moderation filter)

  11. 11
    T. O'Hara says:

    What does it actually mean to be a self-described conservative now? Does it mean anything at all?

    Remember when the conservatives had all the talking points and liberals were all over the map? Those were the days.

  12. 12
    thomas says:

    Isn’t David Frum a Canadian?

  13. 13
    someguy says:

    I recommend the post “Should Republicans Endorse Universal Health Coverage?” for a broad sampling of often reasonable self-described conservative opinion

    Put down the crack pipe, and back away slowly, DougJ. The range of conservative opinion on this is from insane, to violently insane. If by “reasonable” you mean “not waving a loaded gun around when he said it” then I’d agree with you that it’s reasonable. But otherwise, no. Nothing they do is reasonable, except on the odd occasion when they sit down and shut up.

    As for what it means to be a self-described conservative now, I’d say it carries about the same meaning as standing up in church and shitting your pants. Loudly. Sure, it’s a free country and you can do that. Why you’d want to be a person who does that, is beyond me.

  14. 14
    burnspbesq says:

    Saying that someone appears rational when compared to the contemporary American Right isn’t saying much. That statement would even describe Mark Steyn right now.

  15. 15
    Napoleon says:

    @thomas:

    Yes (at least originally, I assume he has become a US citizen).

  16. 16
    Legalize says:

    Frum is a self-interested twat in my opinion. His attempts at sounding sane are merely geared toward landing him “sane republican” status on the talk shows and in the OpEd pages. He may sound reasonable from time to time, but he is still a disingenuous sack of shit. See his appearance with Maddow a while back. I don’t believe that he argues anything in good faith. I see him as a less stupid David Brooks.

  17. 17
    lurkergirl says:

    @thomas: Indeed he is. And we don’t want him back, thanks.

  18. 18
    bayville says:

    There’s probably some underlying craziness with him, but at the very least, he seems to be a high-functioning conservative.

    That’s only because you’ve been listening to way too much talk radio, monitoring Fox News and reading the daily comedic stylings of McCarthy, Goldberg and Dennis Prager. Forty years ago, Frum would’ve been considered a borderline Bircher.

  19. 19
    BettyPageisaBlonde says:

    Sorta on topic: A Charles Stross (Scottish sci-fi writer) rant on the U.S. (includes healthcare)

    http://www.antipope.org/charli......html#more

  20. 20

    The description of onesself as a conservative only means whatever conservatism itself is supposed to mean right now.

    I don’t see any coherent idea set or policy views or even rhetoric from the right these days. The “movement,” which was never actually a movement at all but just a marketing strategy to harvest disgruntled voters, is dead. The phony “conservatism” of Barry Goldwater isn’t even on the radar any more, not that it was ever a viable force in the first place.

    A self-described “conservative” right now cannot be anything but an apologist for a party in the throes of an ugly death. In other words, John Cole about five years ago. John was able to save himself. I am not sure that many on the right will be up to that.

  21. 21
    Warren Terra says:

    @ Gex, #9
    I didn’t see that, likely because I only read Frum when he’s highlighted by, say, Moyers. I suppose there could be context (anything goes if the Prez is Vampire Hitler), but that looks bad.

  22. 22
    Davis X. Machina says:

    What does it actually mean to be a self-described conservative now? Does it mean anything at all?

    The same thing it’s always meant, “Now that I’m in the treehouse, someone help me pull up the ladder.”

  23. 23
    gnomedad says:

    he seems to be a high-functioning conservative

    I am so stealing this.

  24. 24
    cbear says:

    If conservatives are making sense to you on any subject, other than how to properly don scuba equipment, then you might want to rethink your choice of psychedelic drugs.

  25. 25
    Stefan says:

    I don’t think you’d see anything like that diversity of opinion among self-described liberals on this topic.

    No, but this presumes that diversity of opinion is in itself a good thing. There are some areas where diversity of opinion is not in itself valuable, because the facts and/or solution are so glaringly obvious, and where “diversity of opinion” is merely mindless contrarianism for its own sake.

    We don’t, for example, have a diversity of opinion on child labor — it’s settled consensus that it’s wrong to make young children work twelve hour days in factories. Similarly among self-described liberals it’s settled consensus that we should provide universal government-backed (if not government-provided) health care to all Americans.

  26. 26
    Martin says:

    Wut?

    We bitch about the Blue Dogs (all, clearly self-described Democrats) that have concerns about the public option and want to reform but not dismantle the private insurance system, and most Democrats live somewhere on the spectrum from there to full-on universal VA-style care where the doctors all work for the government, and not only would we have guaranteed coverage for all, wed’ve abolished insurance companies and drafted all the medical professionals.

    Fuck, man, we’d have passed health care reform on 1/20/09 if there wasn’t diversity of opinion in the Democratic party on this. The only opinion that doesn’t seem to exist in the Democratic party is ‘Don’t touch it, it’s working fine’.

  27. 27
    gnomedad says:

    @Davis X. Machina:

    The same thing it’s always meant, “Now that I’m in the treehouse, someone help me pull I’ll get the teabaggers to help push up the ladder.”

    Fixed.

  28. 28
    PeakVT says:

    I don’t think you’d see anything like that diversity of opinion among self-described liberals on this topic.

    Because liberals have thought about the problem for a while, examined the evidence, and concluded something like a single-payer system would work best. Where we differ is in what we are willing to “settle” for.

  29. 29
    Andrei says:

    Another interesting article on health care, from a conservative point of view. Well worth the read:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care

  30. 30
    El Cid says:

    There are a number of ‘conservatives’ who occasionally write something worth reading for more than anthropological or investigative opposition research value. But they’re not welcomed anywhere near the Republican Party establishment nor its punditariat. Frum is not in that group.

  31. 31
    gizmo says:

    Progressives are always looking for flashes of reason from writers on the conservative side, in the desperate hope that we can have a productive dialogue with them. It’s a fool’s errand– they will occasionally throw us a paragraph or two that gives one hope, as they have to say some sensible things once in awhile to keep their mainstream media gigs. But in the end, they always revert to their crazy roots.

  32. 32

    This is why I never listen to David Frum:

    If he’s low-balled it, then the United States will find itself, a year or two from now, seeking to borrow another trillion on top of debt levels that have already hit peacetime highs. The most important of his decisions are already locked in, and the others are minutes away.

    Yeah, peacetime economy, bitchez. Can’t you feel the peace?

  33. 33
    Llelldorin says:

    What does it actually mean to be a self-described conservative now? Does it mean anything at all?

    It means there exists, somewhere in your political beliefs, a deep, stagnant pool of completely fucking nuts.

    The rest of your beliefs can be perfectly reasonable, but that one issue is usually overriding. It’s the “well, I agree with Obama on health care, and he’s doing a decent job with the stimulus, but HE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND THAT IRAN IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN HITLER, STALIN, AND GENGHIS KHAN COMBINED WITH ATTILA THE HUN!!!!!!!!! phenomenon.

  34. 34
    lurkergirl says:

    @Legalize: Disingenuous sack of shit FTW!

    At heart Frum’s just another media-whoring careerist – the thinking man’s Jonah Goldberg -who got an undeserved boost at the beginning of his career from having a mother who was a famous broadcast journalist. He left Canada for the US because wingnuttery was much more profitable there, and now that it’s going out of fashion (and right over the edge of a cliff), he’s repositioning himself as a reasonable conservative.

    Frum is intelligent, but all his work has been in the service of an ideology being increasingly exposed as bankrupt, and I suspect he knew that all along. I never took him seriously.

  35. 35
    Joel says:

    Frum is going through the David Brooks “Noise Machine” phase.

  36. 36
    Joel says:

    @Joel: Erm, I meant “BROCK”

  37. 37
    Ed Drone says:

    It’s not about what’s best for America, it’s about principles, man. Conservatives are the new DFH’s, unable to see anything past the shadows of their own assholes.

    Now, now, there’s no reason to bring Rush Limbaugh into this discussion!

    Ed

  38. 38
    gnomedad says:

    Somewhat OT:
    Next up, Republicans will offer a “Bill of Rights” protecting Americans from left-wing re-education camps.

  39. 39
    JGabriel says:

    DougJ @ Top:

    What does it actually mean to be a self-described conservative now? Does it mean anything at all?

    It means you hate liberals.

    cleek:

    It means you’re a Death Eater.

    Yeah, that too.

    .

  40. 40
    Andrei says:

    Hey people… stop ranting about your opinion of DougJ’s opinion. He posted a link from Frum which is basically a collection of pointers to OTHER opinions of a conservative bent. Many of those other opinions are actually worth reading.

    It makes the lot of you look like you’re not even bothering to use Balloon-Juice for what it has always been best at: Filtering the noise to find the signal out on the interwebs.

  41. 41
    Calouste says:

    I don’t think you’d see anything like that diversity of opinion among self-described liberals on this topic.

    That’s because there is only one reality, but a whole load of different fantasy worlds.

    Fantasy worlds where trickle down economics work, fantasy worlds where unregulated markets lead to the good of humanity rather than the plundering of the middle class by robber barons, fantasy worlds where US troops will be greeted with flowers and candy, even fantasy worlds where for-profit health insurance provides better results at lower cost than universal healthcare.

  42. 42
    Punchy says:

    We’ve got much more important issues to deal with, libtards.

    For example, what the hell will Jerry Jones do now that his scoreboard has been exposed as being too low and interferring with punts? What will he DO?

  43. 43
    Robin G. says:

    @Stefan: You nailed it. “Diversity of opinion” is not in and of itself a good thing. I can have diverse opinions wherein one day I think the sky is blue, and the next I think it might be red; sure, they’d be diverse, but you’d also take me to a doctor.

    Frum is better at phrasing his arguments than most; he can keep a coherent line of logic from beginning to end of his writings, so that his opinion of the day at least doesn’t collapse in on itself. For conservatives, yes, I agree, that’s in the 99th percentile. But it reminds me of a kid with the 140 IQ who stays in the mid-level difficulty classes in high school; he’d rather be at the top of the class and make straight As than challenge himself to take the AP courses, where he might have to work harder. Being the smartest of the conservatives is big fish in a little pond behavior. I have no respect for it.

    Also, @cleek: FTW.

  44. 44
    DougJ says:

    No, but this presumes that diversity of opinion is in itself a good thing.

    No, it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s a good thing in general.

  45. 45
    Keith G says:

    “The U.S. has a system of universal coverage now – it’s called `show up at the emergency room’”

    No. No. No. That is not healthcare. That is acute condition intervention. Calling it universal coverage (as this term is commonly understood) is nearly Orwellian.

    Come on, Doug.

  46. 46
    Woody says:

    “…They become unconservative.”

    When the Taiwanese started to implement universal care, and the popularity of it became evident, the Taiwanese conservatives STOLE the issue from the Liberals, according to TR Reid…

  47. 47
    jayackroyd says:

    One of the quotes is this:

    “Once enacted government entitlement programs grow and expand. Medicare covers more people and services than when it was first enacted. SCHIP has been expanded to cover children in households above the poverty level. The Senate Finance Committee is considering a similar expansion of Medicaid.”

    This bespeaks a complete ignorance of current health care policy. SCHIP is expressly designed to cover kids in families who cannot qualify for Medicaid because their income is above the poverty level.

    This happens time and again. Their only core principle, AFAICT, is ignorance is to be pursued.

  48. 48
    Martin says:

    No, it doesn’t. I don’t think it’s a good thing in general.

    Diversity of opinion is fine – without it, we’d never explore new ideas.

    Diversity of agreement is the problem. It’s when people can’t put their own opinions aside and reach consensus.

  49. 49
    SadOldVet says:

    What an honest republican would say about the health care reform ‘debate’
    (if you could find one)

    This is like the children’s game of Whack-A-Mole!

    Someone makes up another lie about The Chosen One or ObamaCare.
    Drudge & Fox News make it their headlines.
    Republicans repeat it.
    Dumbocraps say it is a lie.
    Our corporately owned media provide platforms to repeat the lie.
    Our corporately owned media perform their ‘He said – He said’ discussions and never say it is a lie.

    Rinse-Lather-Repeat-Rinse-Lather-Repeat

    We win – you lose…

    Our base will believe the lies.
    The vast muddle of the American sheeple will be confused.
    Distrust of government will increase.
    What more could a country dominated by our wealthy and corporate interests want?

    We win – you lose…

    Of course we lie.
    We know that we lie.
    There is no penalty for lying.
    We will continue to lie.

    We win – you lose…

    It must be recognized that the true enemy of the United States of America is democrats.
    Democrats must be defeated.
    Democrats must be destroyed.

  50. 50

    @jayackroyd:

    This happens time and again. Their only core principle, AFAICT, is ignorance is to be pursued.

    See, I thought their only core principle was IGMFU (I Got Mine, F**K You).

  51. 51
    DougJ says:

    Come on, Doug.

    I’m quoting them and it should be clear from context, doing so in a negative way.

  52. 52
    Meyer says:

    What is outstanding about Frum is that he appears willing to have a dialog. Any dialog at all.

    In today’s climate, that’s outstanding.

  53. 53
    Keith G says:

    @DougJ: Indeed, and I am chagrined.

  54. 54
    kay says:

    I don’t think we’ve ever done this before. Tried to reform a system that relies on a private for-profit that actually has your employer deducting premiums from your paycheck.

    Imagine if Social Security had failed, in the 1930s, and stock funds filled the breach, and the need for a “public option” was then discovered. What are the odds that would happen, knowing what we know about Wall Street and Congress?

    25% of MEDICARE is for-profit.

    We’re trying to overlay a public option over a wildly profitable and politically powerful private system.

    It’s the reverse of Social Security, where private retirement funds came AFTER the base-line public program.

    Just so difficult to do, and, I think, unprecedented.

  55. 55
    Maus says:

    “A lot of the time, he makes more sense to me than the “Obama is selling us out” wing of the left blogosphere.”

    High expectations for Obama’s performance and ability to handle the GOP/Blue dogs does not make us lower-functioning. “Realistic compromises” get us WORSE than the status quo.

  56. 56
    b-psycho says:

    @jayackroyd: If enough people over the official poverty level still struggle enough to need assistance, then doesn’t that say the official definition of poverty is bullshit?

  57. 57
    jayackroyd says:

    b-psycho

    Sure. But the operative assumption underlying the US welfare system has always been that there are “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. Young, able-bodied men have the most difficult time receiving any kind of assistance, while children, especially young children (who cannot be held responsible for their position), are best served.

    Hence SCHIP (and, FTM, WIC wrt to food for infants) provides health care to kids, but NOT their parents, with family incomes above the poverty level.

  58. 58
    jayackroyd says:

    @arguingwithsignposts

    I think JoeThePlumber epitomizes the invalidity of your claim. There are plenty of ignorant wingnuts who don’t have theirs, who are even on the dole in one form or another, who still pursue ignorance with tenacity, and all too much success.

  59. 59
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @jayackroyd

    Who wants a boring old social provision when they can have a morality play?

  60. 60
    jibeaux says:

    @Andrei:

    Hell, I’m just here for BoB and the Tunch pictures. WTF is this noise-filtering tradition which you reference?

  61. 61
    Blue Raven says:

    @DougJ:

    I’m quoting them and it should be clear from context, doing so in a negative way.

    Wait. You mean that emergency room crack wasn’t sarcasm? I hope my insurance covers smelling salts, because I do believe I’m having a case of the vapors.

  62. 62
    KG says:

    Diversity of opinion on policy isn’t a bad thing. Diversity of opinion on facts, however, is a bukoo bad thing.

    Unfortunately, for many of my friends on the right, they don’t really have an opinion on policy outside of “fuck no, we won’t go!” And as long as they maintain the mindset of the 24 hour news cycle and short term politics of the 90s, they are going to get rolled by Obama. And while I don’t tend to agree with the president, part of me is looking forward to seeing my conservative friends get rolled, because a severe drumming at the polls and on policy are necessary to get them back to reality.

  63. 63
    BFR says:

    No. No. No. That is not healthcare. That is acute condition intervention. Calling it universal coverage (as this term is commonly understood) is nearly Orwellian.

    I disagree. The ER is a good rebuttal for the ‘health-care isn’t an intrinsic right’ argument. If it’s not a right, then why does everyone automatically get treated at the ER?

    If you win that argument, then you’re just arguing about efficiency.

  64. 64
    DougJ says:

    You mean that emergency room crack wasn’t sarcasm?

    It was a quote from Bradley Smith.

  65. 65
    Leah says:

    The best dissection of Frum I know of is this piece by John Holboresponding to a Josh Marshall recommendation of Frum’s seminal work, *Dead Right,” as a worthy read.

    In fairness I should point out that this was a younger Frum, the book was published in 1994, and Holbo’s piece was written in 2003, but the central issue of Frum’s seeming reasonableness in defense of the crazy-spewing ideas of rightwing movement conservatives is exactly what Holbo is addressing:

    As I was saying, I read Frum to find out whether he could refute my generally bad impression of the philosophical state of the National Review’s specific brand of conservatism. On the strength of Marshall’s recommendation, and Frum’s evident willingness to take his colleagues to task, I was prepared to be impressed by the rigorous and principled quality of the man’s views, even if I did not share them. At least I was prepared to give the man a fair shake. And I have been mightily disappointed. And this would be a good point to announce and clearly label for what it is the rather heavy-handed rhetorical device I intend to employ throughout the rest of this post. I am going to attribute rather outrageous views to Frum, not because I actually think he holds them but because I think he does NOT. These outrageous views are the views he WOULD hold if, perchance, he upheld and investigated only the most immediate ramifications of the bits and snippets of philosophy he espouses. My accusation, then, is this: the man thinks he has a conservative philosophy; it seems to me he does not.

    It’s a long post, as Holbo admits; he read the book and then just started writing, but it’s well worth the slog. Don’t give up before you get to Holbo’s discussion of Frum’s positive response to a Bill Bennett column about the Donner party being an exemplar of lost American values.

  66. 66
    Koz says:

    “Frum quite recently laid out a set of circumstances he claims allow for assassinating the President. They include 1) being personally convinced the President is a fascist and 2) being certain that the President has thought about something you are convinced is fascist or socialist.”

    Oh b*******t

  67. 67
    Koz says:

    This is why I never listen to David Frum:…

    Because it’s more fun to stay ignorant?

  68. 68
    Koz says:

    “High expectations for Obama’s performance and ability to handle the GOP/Blue dogs does not make us lower-functioning. “Realistic compromises” get us WORSE than the status quo.”

    No, lower functioning makes you lower functioning.

  69. 69
    steve s says:

    “August 24th, 2009 at 12:19 pm Reply to this comment

    gex

    @Warren Terra: Frum quite recently laid out a set of circumstances he claims allow for assassinating the President. They include 1) being personally convinced the President is a fascist and 2) being certain that the President has thought about something you are convinced is fascist or socialist.”

    god, you are a complete moron. No normal person read that so literally.

  70. 70
    Blue Raven says:

    @DougJ: It was a quote from Bradley Smith.

    /me looks up Bradley Smith
    /me reads Wikipedia page
    /me sighs, nods, and replaces the request for smelling salts with an order for a triple Scotch, neat, water back

  71. 71
    scarshapedstar says:

    There’s also more diversity of opinion on the right about the age of the earth and whether or not the rapture is imminent.

    Actually, I think the wingnuts are nearly unanimous on both of those topics.

  72. 72
    cleek says:

    did you like this Frum piece ?

    cause i think the guy’s an asshole. just sayin.

  73. 73
    Glenn says:

    DougJ

    Please respond in detail to this piece with facts refuting each point raised:
    http://adventuresinautism.blog.....tists.html

    If you can’t, then quit it with the vaccine/autism bashing already.

    The issue is that the most basic of scientific studies has not been done properly about this issue and so your bashing kind of makes you look like GWB in the run up to the Iraq War claiming that of course Iraq has WMD, even though the supposed “evidence” is crap. It lets you put down every other person who’s looked at the evidence and said “wow, that’s crap” and I’d like better evidence before I rule out that possibility, but it certainly doesn’t make you right.

    Looking at the studies and saying that there’s a lot wrong with them and they need to be done properly is what I learned was called science, not the bashing you’ve been engaging in.

    Best,
    Glenn

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