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Russell Arben Fox is unhappy :

Poulos’s ridiculous, Tea-Partier rhetoric about a bill that has been sent back and forth through the legislative wringer more times over the past year that the great majority of bills ever experience (how does ten months of constant debate and scrutiny add up to governing by “fiat”?) simply reveals him, beneath his philosophy, to be Mansfieldian at heart : someone so disbelieving that any kind of collective action or positive reforms can contribute to political liberty as to lead him to assume that anything which smacks of “reform” is by definition the undemocratic work of a Lawgiver, and therefore sees the “process” behind such as invalidating any and all claims that might be made on behalf of, for instance, insuring people, and regulating insurers, and maybe even lowering costs.

Leaving Harvey Mansfield out of this, I am stumped as to where this ungenerous read came from. My post certainly did not claim that Obama was impatient or unwilling to tolerate nuts and bolts negotiations at the Congressional level. Indeed, Obama, as I pointed out, was quite willing to let things get positively “ugly” as the Congress wrestled with, and wrestled over, the monster bill. That’s because he seems not to care how ugly it gets because only the result counts, and the result that counts is the law he wants. Buyoffs, backroom deals, sops to the insurance companies he demonizes — whatever works.

I doubt any of my regular readers, right, left, or center, could possibly agree that I am the kind of conservative who stands reflexively against reform. Something — in what I took to be my obvious subtext — is occasionally better than nothing, and one of the purposes of a nondysfunctional politics is to adjudicate well when that’s so and when it isn’t. My point, which I believe stands, is that this bill is not something that is better than nothing, and that elevating the something-over-nothing idea to the level of a guiding legal philosophy is a triumph of dangerous abstraction over — yes — the viability of real, responsible reform.

As far as communitarian conservatism goes, I am one of the most sympathetic non-communitarian conservatives I know, so this dispute seems especially unfortunate. But the basis of my sympathy is rooted in my appreciation for the possibility of bottom-up change , on a micro, pluralistic level, in the way many Americans live their lives. Some top-down change is inevitable, and some is necessary and even good — I’m sympathetic to David Brooks , too, remember — but Obamacare is not change I can believe in, and it is not better than nothing. I say this, of course, as a person who shares the near-universal opinion of intelligent Americans everywhere, which is that we have to do something. I also share the opinion of the relatively few conservative commentators who rue the failure of Republicans in Congress, especially in the Bush Congress, to effectively tap into their own idea base and prioritize the promotion of a reform package of their own.

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