October 23, 2013
I seldom dispute the opinions of people I consider allies in common cause but in a recent column by Dennis Prager, I think he made two excellent arguments that defeated his third argument.
Mr. Prager's column, Does It Feel Good - or Do Good? certainly raises a poignant question about motives and the negative costs that can be incurred in the pursuit of good feelings. He gives several examples to illustrate how his question relates to personal life, the left and then the right. His examples relating to personal life and the left are excellent illustrations of how good feelings do not necessarily translate to doing good. His illustration of the right however, denies an alternative outcome that something can feel good and do good at the same time. Had he phrased the question "does it feel good and do good," his answer may have been cast in a different light rather than as a mutually exclusive proposition.
Mr. Prager presents an adequate case against Obamacare and the harm it will do. He properly attributes Obamacare as the pursuit of leftists' good feelings that will do no good. I am with Mr. Prager up to this point but where I part company is his assertion that conservatives have fallen prey to good feelings that will do no good. In his words " And now, sadly, we have witnessed this most seductive human frailty -- feeling good as opposed to doing good -- within the conservative movement, the movement that prides itself as placing doing good before feeling good." He is speaking specifically of the conservative effort to defund Obamacare.
I will admit I felt good that some members of Congress were finally going to do something meaningful to stop Obamacare rather than pass meaningless bills for its repeal. If the effort to defund Obamacare succeeded, would Mr. Prager contend that because it felt good it did not do good? This exposes the false choices of Mr. Prager's question in this particular instance. His judgment that the effort did harm either stems from a disagreement with the strategy or the fact the effort to do good failed, or both. From his column, he states, "I have not read a convincing argument on behalf of these tactics. But I have read that the Republican Party is held in lower esteem than at any time in its history."
Could these tactics have worked? Establishment Republicans turned their doubts into vocal opposition. The effort was sabotaged right from the start and produced a deal that gave more than it gained. The low esteem of the Republican Party comes from Conservatives fed up with betrayals and like-minded moderates who see a party that stands for nothing other than its election prospects. This outcome was not the result of Conservatives in search of good feelings but of a party unwilling to take any political risks to do good.
If Republicans had stood united, and if establishment Republicans would have at least kept their mouths shut, the tactics would have a chance for success. It is my belief that support for the Democrat position would have fallen away faster than support for the Republican position. It would have been congressional Democrats under pressure to yield to popular opinion that would have made passage possible. Democrats face re-election just as much as Republicans and their defense of Obamacare would not bode well in 2014. These same Democrats would be the ones putting pressure on Obama to yield or compromise. Obama certainly did his share of spite work to bolster the Republican cause. One thing we can say is that Republicans did not blink; they simply refused to turnout for the battle.
Undoubtedly this loss cost the Republicans, but not because of some quest for good feelings but for their abandonment to do good right from the outset of the struggle. We have to agree to disagree on this point Mr. Prager. The effort to do good does not always succeed. Should we stop trying for fear of failure to do good? Should we stop trying because doing good may feel good as well? I think not.
The BasicsProject.org informational and educational pamphlet series is now available for Kindle and iPad. Click here to find out more...
The New Media Journal and BasicsProject.org are not funded by outside sources. We exist exclusively on tax deductible donations from our readers and contributors.
Please make a tax deductible donation today.