How Bart Stupak mirrors Neville Chamberlain


By: Robert E. Meyer

It was once claimed that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. In his time, Neville Chamberlain was probably the poster child for such a sentiment. In the aftermath of the passage of health insurance reform, we can hastily place Democratic Representative Bart Stupak in the same category.

In retrospect, I view Chamberlain as a well meaning, but hopelessly naive statesman, who projected his own aspirations for peace toward Adolph Hitler, taking a power hungry madman at his word. Chamberlain was obviously a highly intelligent diplomat, but was unable to see that other national leaders were uninspired and unwilling to share in his humanistic, utopian vision for a worldwide consensus of non-aggression. Chamberlain was so blinded by this Pollyanna sentimentality, that he was duped into thinking a piece of paper had some transcendental significance. “Peace in our times”–a failed declaration of mid-twentieth century enlightenment hubris.

Likewise, Bart Stupak became a darling of sorts to those who hoped his principled pro-life stance would derail Obama’s objective of signing the last page of any ream of printed paper with the heading “Healthcare Reform, ” thumped down on his Oval Office desk. Stupak went in the blink of an eye, from 60 to 0, from hero to goat, when he accepted a meaningless executive order from Obama as an appeasement in exchange for votes from him and his bloc in favour of the unpopular health insurance reform bill. Stupak was quickly demonized as one who either should have known, or was aware that the executive order from Obama was worth less than the paper it was printed on in terms of legal enforcement. So, it was claimed that Stupak made a Faustian bargain in exchange for no gold and basically nothing at all.

There is much speculation as to why Stupak would essentially roll over and play dead. We are told that behind the scenes, tremendous pressure was applied to Stupak and his coalition, but this is always the case when an important legislative bill nears passage. There is far more to the story than this simple explanation.

Stupak, as a Roman Catholic, holds fast to the belief in the sanctity of life, opposing the expenditures of federal money to support abortion procedures, consistent with the Hyde Amendment. However, Stupak favoured many of the provisions of the healthcare bill as it was currently written. Much discussion has taken place over the issue as to why whenever a left-leaning politician holds both religious sentiments and liberals ideals, it seems that the liberal ideals always rule the day.

This is not really so difficult to understand. While religious sentiments are important for many people, they tend to occupy an entirely different magisterial realm than political precepts that form public policy. They become a bastion of individual sentiments, but not an object of unswervingly moral conviction. Therefore, when push comes to shove, it is easy to get someone appearing principled, to set aside their religious proclamations in favour of political mandates, as long as the religious sentiments are minimally pacified. Obama accomplished this for Stupak in the form of an executive order. Such was the protocol of symbolism or ceremony, but otherwise of little significance. It was a classic prioritizing between the precepts of the ethereal world and the pragmatism of a “progressive” agenda . Notice that pro-abortion groups by and large didn’t seem threatened by this gesture, understanding it to be the heartless pantomime of politics as usual. It was a charade completed with a wink and a nod.

We may wonder why Stupak seemed to change his mind so directly and easily after he gave the appearance of being an immovable thorn in the side? But competing objectives are easily reconciled and rationalized into insignificance. Democrats commonly argue that ultimately, passage of the health insurance reform bill is superlatively pro life, because implementation of the bill will save lives that would have been otherwise lost due to lack of expensive health care. This is merely a red herring that has no bearing on the abortion question at all. Of course, the concealed insinuation is that pro-life advocates have a love affair with human beings at early stages of their development, but become uninterested in human welfare once birth has occurred.

These types of arguments are rhetorical and tenuous at best, relying on unconfirmed and unproven assumptions. It is similar to saying that our economy is losing jobs, but were it not for certain policies, the employment situation would be all the worse. How can we test or verify such assertions? Imagine revealing to a perpetually losing gambler who regularly forfeits a king’s ransom at the blackjack tables, that a new gaming scheme would cause him to lose less, thus saving him substantial money in the long run. What a big favor.

I don’t know if Stupak got a written document from Obama, as Chamberlain did from Hitler, but if he did, it might have been used for better things.

I suppose the point is now moot; before I sent this piece in for publication, Bart Stupak announced his resignation. I wonder why?

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