The federal government's growing role in health care reform may be the GOP's best friend. Increased expenses will crowd out other federal spending, raising important questions for both the Democrats and the Republicans about what is the proper role of government.
Republicans cannot now decide if they should be weary or gleeful. On one hand, the Obama administration and the current Democratic majority are their worst philosophical nightmare. Government's role is expanding and deficits are rising. Financial reform is around the corner, and there is talk of, gasp, increased environmental regulation. We already hear how limited government conservatives respond to this agenda: they have labeled it socialist, or in more polite circles, European.
The GOP's sanguine side of this equation is that it has finally mobilized what but a few months ago was a party lost between stagnation and intellectual vacuity. Small government conservative movements are sprouting nationwide, most notably in the form of the Tea Party. But more important for next year's elections is the infusion of campaign cash that these citizens are giving to GOP candidates.
The Democrats similarly are torn between being rejoiceful or worrisome. The executive and legislative branches are theirs, and the optimism of their GOP counterparts may be overstated. The president will soon have another Supreme Court justice nominee. While presidential and congressional approval polls range from the middling to the dismal, the fact remains that their party is responsible for one of the greater legislative accomplishments of recent memory; health care reform is now the law of the land. Despite high unemployment numbers, the stock market is slowly rising.