The Progressive Pyrrhic Victory

by Mike

Healthcare reform started out as what seemed to be a sure thing for the Democrats, Liberals, and Progressives. Majority control of the House, a filibuster proof Senate, a wildly popular President, and a supposed shift in the paradigm of political thought–amongst the electorate–towards a left-of-center nation. Progressive political capital was just oozing all over Pennsylvania Ave and their chimeric vision of the socially perfect welfare-state was just within arms reach. That is until the dog days of summer came a barkin’ and it was back to reality.

From proposal to proposal to missed deadline after missed deadline here we are.  Far removed from those glory days.

Now you have the likes of Nobel laureate and econo-missed, Paul Krugman, about ready to get on his knees and beg the Congress to pass healthcare reform. Then there is Matthew Yglesias of Think Progress trying to get Democrats to increase their phallic size so they can get “tough” and take “hostages.”

It’s this “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” attitude I find rather humorous. For the Left, healthcare reform might just become a Pyrrhic victory if it gets passed.

After defeating the Romans in the battles of Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC, King Pyrrhus of Epirus is reported to have said, “one more such victory would utterly undo him.” Pyrrhus’s armies were in ruins and most of his principal military leaders killed. Conversely the Romans–having garnered more losses–had the necessary reliefs, will, and supplies to continue fighting. Pyrrhus’s victories had cost him too much to continue.

If this bill, in whatever mutated form they deliver it, passes, it will drain the fever-swamp of the Democratic camp. Ideology will have triumphed necessity. This makes for a very good possibility of the Democrats wandering a political wasteland of their own design for decades too come.

Something for our “Tovarischs” on the Left to dutifully ponder.


: Looks like I wasn’t the only one hung up on the Pyrhhic analogy. Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard took a liking to it also.

About Mike Elliot

Works in Construction Engineering and Project Management. Mike has been employed by the federal government and worked extensively within the private sector as well. His interests include public policy, economics, politics, foreign policy, philosophy and other assorted mind-numbing practices. Mike can be contacted, complimented, or criticized at He is also available for speaking engagements and prefers to be paid in gum.
This entry was posted in American Politics, American Society, Current Events, Essays, History, Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Progressive Pyrrhic Victory

  1. Great points- I think you have this nailed.

    A commentator I read called the Health Care Barack Obama’s Iraq. He breaks it, he buys it. If this bill passes, anything that goes wrong in health care will necessarily be Obama’s and the Democrats’ fault. After all, didn’t they rewrite the entire system?

    Were Obama a politcally savvy man, he would have shifted course back in September, scaled down the goal of this thing and sought for bipartisan, incremental reform. His popularity would be soaring right now.

    Instead, he went all-in on the left-wing, progressive agenda. In order to get there, he appears to have made too many compromises along the way (given that the progressives are now coming out en masse against the Senate bill). The Dems pitched too big a tent in 2008.

    Whatever. Let them eat themselves alive.

    If this country is fortunate, the bill won’t survive the reconciliation process b/w the House and the Senate. Lierberman has drawn a line in the sand on the public option. Stupak and crew have (thankfully) drawn a line in the sand over abortion. Not sure the libs can overcome those two things to get the bill they want.

    The only chance that this thing will pass is if the libs compromise. They have surprised me thusfar with their willingness to compromise, though, so maybe they will do so.

    I’m worried about that prospect. Very worried.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks Steve. But I wouldn’t call what the Progressives are doing bi-partisan compromising. I call it scorched earth policy. They will slash and burn anything at this point just to get something passed. What they don’t realize is they have painted themselves into quite a dubious corner.

    Progressives think they will be damaged far more, politically that is, if they have wasted all of this and pass nothing. Nothing could be further from the truth. What they fail to understand is that while most Americans want healthcare reform they don’t want this healthcare reform.

    Rather than going back to the drawing board and doing this incrementally and wisely, they are insistent on jamming this down in whatever form they can in hopes of amending it later. More than likely molding it into some form of a single-payer system.

    They have relegated themselves to the dustbin of history by creating an Alamo for the Republicans in 2010. For right now it seems that they have exhausted their political capital at a crucial time without regards to future consequences. All the better for those on the Right.

    Also, thanks for your thoughts on matters.

  3. Kynikos says:

    Just found your site, love it, will track back on the next post. Kynikos

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks Kyni and glad you enjoyed!

  5. Pingback: Is Something ALWAYS Better Than Nothing? « mirabile dictu

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