The sharp stick of politics

Dave Schuler quotes Megan McArdle:

[I]f you want to make the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act viable for the long term, you’re going to need the support of folks like Hobby Lobby as much as you need low premiums. There are many religious people in America, and if you want to keep stirring up active opposition to the law, one good way is to suggest that this law forces them to pay for something they are convinced is morally wrong. (Hobby Lobby’s objection is not to contraception in general, but specifically to products that could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting.) If you want to still be fighting Obamacare in the trenches 40 years from now, the best way I can think of is appending it to the argument over abortion.

But McArdle, says Schuler, is missing a very pointed point:

… which is that part of the problem with our political system today is that accomplishing something material doesn’t necessarily produce political gain but poking a stick in your opponent’s eye does. And it feels so good.

There is a hierarchy of values at work here. Having an issue is better than solving a problem. Hurting your political opponent is better than reaching a mutually agreeable solution. Holding tough is better than compromise.

With that hierarchy in mind, it’s clear that appending Obamacare to the argument over abortion is a feature rather than a bug.

Of course, with sticks flying in every direction, we should not be surprised to find incidence of blindness.


  1. McGehee »

    3 December 2013 · 2:28 pm

    Friend Schuler gets it. Politics since about 1950 (maybe 1932, or even 1912) isn’t about solving problems, but exploiting them.

  2. Charles Pergiel »

    4 December 2013 · 3:58 pm

    The ‘Hobby Lobby’? You’re kidding, right? Never mind, I don’t care, well, not enough to go look it up. Just enough to whine about it.

  3. CGHill »

    4 December 2013 · 5:49 pm

    Five hundred sixty stores; 21,000 employees. Not exactly what you’d call small-time. (Founder David Green is worth somewhere around $5 billion.)

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