Apr 09 2014

Party self-interest trumps the public interest, again


Reform Party of California Analysis & Commentary

It has been argued here repeatedly that political self-interest in our two-party system can and does trump service to the public interest. Fair questions include how often does that happen and how important is it. Presumably, all or essentially all players within the system will strongly deny that such things happen or that, if it does occur, the effects are trivial. That is why it is rare and refreshing to hear a major source squarely within the two-party system admit that such things do happen and the effects are not trivial.

On Tuesday, April 8, 2014, the Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) editorial opinion section at page A14 published an opinion that is fairly described as an example of republican party enthusiasts acting in their own political interest to the detriment of service to the public interest (online article here).[1] The republican right wing in the House has rebelled against House GOP leaders in protest of the passage of a modest fix to the ObamaCare law.[2] They wanted the law to remain unchanged so that in the 2014 and 2016 elections they could use the flaw against democrats. The WSJ editors summarized the situation like this:

“. . . some Republicans have convinced themselves that the only tolerable change to ObamaCare is to make it worse. . . . . . some conservatives have become so politically disoriented by ObamaCare that preserving its mistakes is more important than helping Americans hurt by the law. The theory seems to be that “improving” ObamaCare will weaken the coalition for repeal and therefore the economic torture dials should be turned up to 11. If the law is more punitive and dysfunctional, more people will want to get rid of it . . . . . We support repealing ObamaCare as much as anyone, but that shouldn’t mean refusing to make the law less destructive to the businesses that create the most jobs.”

What can one conclude from those statements? One reasonable conclusion is that at least some conservative republicans will put their political goals ahead of service to the public interest, even if it means inflicting harm that could otherwise be avoided. That is political self-interest before service to the public interest. Is this just a trivial thing that one should simply shrug off or is it revealing of how politicians, especially ideologues, really think and act? Clearly, the situation is reprehensible. Unfortunately, it is also just business as usual in an ideologically constipated and broken two-party system.


1. Assume for the sake of argument that this is not about political self-interest. If that is so, then what interest is being served? Obviously, not the democratic party’s interest. If the public interest is served, how so?

2. It is easy to argue that even the existence of the ObamaCare law is equally or more the fault of the republican party and most of its backers than the democratic party and its backers. How so? The republicans had full control in 2000 to 2006. They could have fixed health care in a manner far more to their liking had they chose to do so. Opinion polls had been showing for years that Americans were very unhappy with the U.S. health care system. That is why president Clinton tried to fix the situation. Republicans were instrumental in blocking that effort. The republican party and its politicians have an irrefutable track record of offering nothing despite an ocean of public discontent. They supported and fought to preserve the pre-ObamaCare status quo. Also, it was the republicans’ fault that they lost the White House and both chambers of congress. If they had done a better job, voters would not have thrown them out. Under the circumstances, republicans complaining about ObamaCare is blatant hypocrisy over a situation of their own making.