I am a dedicated Nipponophile having lived in Japan for a good chunk of the 1990s and received my degree in political science with a concentration on East Asian politics. One of the many exciting bits of Japanese history is the Bushido warrior code of the Samurai and the part ritual suicide or seppuku played in it. In case you’ve forgotten seppuku is suicide in which the suicide uses a long knife called the tanto to splay out his guts, followed by a swordsman lopping off the suicide’s head.
I’m reminded of this act reading the polls that categorically and emphatically state the American public’s opposition to Obamacare. The Democrat’s shoving it down the throats of Americans is now bleeding over into the attitudes of Americans towards the party, making the election of 2010 appear likely to be a repeat of 1994 when the Republicans swept the Democrats out of power in all but the office of the presidency.
The Democrats themselves know this. Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), a conservative Democrat and former Republican official of the Reagan administration, is expected to do what John Kerry did in authorizing the war in Iraq: vote for cloture, allowing the Obamacare bill to avoid death by filibuster – then vote against it when a simple majority of 50 is needed. Other conservative Democrats like Sen. Ben Nelson (D-VA) and Sen. Mary Landrieu are expected to do the same. They can allow the bill to become law and claim to their constituents that they voted against the legislation. It didn’t work for Kerry (“I voted for the bill before I voted against it”) and it likely won’t work for these senators.
Defying public opinion by forcing “reform” that the American people clearly don’t want will have a price, and the Democrats in the House – all of whom are up for reelection in 2010 – and at least 5 incumbent Dems who are facing uphill reelection battles, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, will pay that price. Given Obama’s failure to save John Corzine’s governorship in New Jersey, it’s unlikely that any popularity the president has left (it too is sinking) will save them. Nor will any benefits of Obamacare, since the majority of the program doesn’t kick in until 2014. The Republicans already have a game plan laid out for them thanks to the Democrats. Running against something, especially when that something is as unpopular as Obamacare, is much easier than supporting it.
So why are the Democrats committing suicide? Here’s where the ritual of seppuku is instructive.
The ritual is designed to be as solemn and scripted as a wedding to offer no escape once started. It is a series of small steps, the site selection, the layout of the tanto or wakizashi (short sword) on the ceremonial table ending in the cutting of the head by the kaishakunin - “assistant” or swordsman. Like a wedding, once the ritual is started it is very difficult to stop because of the series of small steps and the sacredness bestowed upon each. In a wedding, the “I do” reflects the point of no return; in seppuku the swordsman’s blade can come at any time – even before the suicide touches the knife or sword! Merely reaching for the blade can be considered enough for the kaishakunin to strike, technically making the suicide a murder, although not in the eyes of the believers in bushido.
Obama has led the Democrats to the room, and set them down in front of the tanto in a way that Republican leaders like Michael Steel or Karl Rove could never have done. Obama is willing to sacrifice the Democrats because he doesn’t face reelection until 2012 – giving him plenty of time to convince the American people that he is smarter than they are and that he knows what is best for them. Obama sees himself as being destined to make History, and part of that History is to “reform healthcare” – whether or not the system is reformed or not. Now the Democrats have withdrawn their hands from their kimonos, grasped the tanto, and are gripping it ready to rip themselves to pieces an instant before the Public’s blade falls on their necks.
Of course the Public can’t lop off their heads for another 11 months, which leaves the party to suffer a long while before the American people can strike. I expect a lot of blood during the coming year – and whimpering too.