Salam is right to note that if you think an idea will be bad policy, it is responsible to oppose it. But think of the nature of Republican opposition and its likely consequences. Leading Democrats from President Obama down have all repeatedly stated that they want a bipartisan bill, but at the end of the day they'll pass healthcare reform with or without Republican input. There have been minor substantive ideas from Republicans (namely, tort reform), but overall, the Republican "contribution" to this debate has been scaremongering and demagoguery led by the likes of Sarah Palin and Betsy McCaughey - with their ridiculous lies about death panels, euthanasia, abortion, socialism, etc. Republicans had their chance to make real contributions to healthcare reform. They had the opportunity to ensure that the final bill, even if they found it objectionable, would at least be mitigated by some conservative provisions. But they never took that opportunity. For the most part, they've been content to sit on the sidelines and throw spitballs. Since the passage of healthcare is nearly guaranteed, they are being profoundly irresponsible, and yes, nihilistic, if they refuse to try and positively change something that they believe will be disastrous.
Republicans could have been architects of improvement, instead we made ourselves impotent spectators as things get radically worse. [...]
The furious rejectionist frenzy of the past 12 months is exacting a terrible price upon Republicans. We’re getting worse and less conservative results out of Washington than we could have negotiated, if we had negotiated.
As is, we’re betting heavily that a bad economy will collapse Democratic support without us having to lift a finger. Maybe that will happen. But existing party strategy has to be reckoned a terrible failure. Most Republicans will shrug off that news. If polls are right, rank-and-file Republicans feel little regard for the Washington party, and don’t expect much from it. But it’s the rank-and-file who are the problem here! Republican leaders do not dare try deals for fear of being branded sell-outs by a party base that wants war to the knife. So we got war. And we’re losing. Even if we gain seats in 2010, the actions of this congressional session will not be reversed. Shrink Medicare after it has expanded? Hey- we said we’d never do that.I hear a lot of talk about the importance of “principle.” But what’s the principle that obliges us to be stupid?