N.Y. Times columnist Paul Krugman reports that “Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — [said that] if Democrats pass health reform, ‘They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years’ by passing civil rights legislation.
“I’d argue that Mr. Gingrich is wrong about that: proposals to guarantee health insurance are often controversial before they go into effect — Ronald Reagan famously argued that Medicare would mean the end of American freedom — but always popular once enacted.
“But that’s not the point I want to make today. Instead, I want you to consider the contrast: on one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism.
“Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act. Who in modern America would say that L.B.J. did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality? (Actually, we know who: the people at the Tea Party protest who hurled racial epithets at Democratic members of Congress on the eve of the vote.)
“And that cynicism has been the hallmark of the whole campaign against reform. Indeed, the emotional core of [it] was blatant fear-mongering, unconstrained either by the facts or by any sense of decency.”