Mark Steyn, National Review's in-house demographic bore and all-around wet blanket, keeps it very real.
Once the state swells to a certain size, the people available to fill the ever expanding number of government jobs will be statists — sometimes hard-core Marxist statists, sometimes social-engineering multiculti statists, sometimes fluffily “compassionate” statists, but always statists. The short history of the post-war welfare state is that you don’t need a president-for-life if you’ve got a bureaucracy-for-life: The people can elect “conservatives,” as the Germans have done and the British are about to do, and the Left is mostly relaxed about it because, in all but exceptional cases (Thatcher), they fulfill the same function in the system as the first-year boys at wintry English boarding schools who for tuppence-ha’penny or some such would agree to go and warm the seat in the unheated lavatories until the prefects strolled in and took their rightful place.
Republicans are good at keeping the seat warm. A bigtime GOP consultant was on TV crowing that Republicans wanted the Dems to pass Obamacare because it’s so unpopular it will guarantee a GOP sweep in November. Okay, then what? You’ll roll it back — like you’ve rolled back all those other unsustainable entitlements premised on cobwebbed actuarial tables from 80 years ago? Like you’ve undone the federal Department of Education and of Energy and all the other nickel ’n’ dime novelties of even a universally reviled one-term loser like Jimmy Carter? Andrew McCarthy concluded a shrewd analysis of the political realities thus: “Health care is a loser for the Left only if the Right has the steel to undo it. The Left is banking on an absence of steel. Why is that a bad bet?”
As much as it might ruffle some feathers to admit it, Steyn is...as usual...spot on.
History tells us that the GOP is loathe to undo a Democratic domestic program with the exception of slavery. Look back to the New Deal. What put the presidential stamp of approval on Social Security was not the Truman Administration, but when Eisenhower elected not to even try to dismantle it. The Great Society could've been demolished when Nixon took office. Instead, Tricky Dick decided to build on it. Not even Ronaldus Magnus Reagan found the political will to take a wrecking ball to any of the craptastic big government programs he came across.
Meanwhile, are the Democrats ever scared to stop or massively reconfigure any Republican policy they run into? No They gleefully roll back tax cuts, missile defense funding, military spending...whatever they want to do, they do it. It's only the gutless GOP that holds to the notion that the Donkey Party's program is sanctified under some bizarre domestic program stare decisis. It has to make you think just how committed the Republicans are to their alleged core small-government beliefs.