Wall Street Journal Editorial: If a Butterfly Flaps Its Wings, Blame Obamacare

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 22 2013 5:20 PM

Wall Street Journal Editorial: If a Butterfly Flaps Its Wings, Blame Obamacare

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Damn you, Obamacare!

Photo by Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images

If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. And then a straw, a napkin, a mirror, and so on. Another system of causality beloved by children and adults alike goes that if you steal an election in one state, and hide exculpatory evidence in another, you’re going to pass Obamacare, and if you’re going to pass Obamacare, you’re going to pass the nuclear option in the Senate.

That’s one of many takeaways in a new Wall Street Journal editorial in reaction to Senate Democrats lowering the filibuster threshold on Thursday. Amid the predictable hand-wringing, as though Sen. Harry Reid restoring majority rule in the Senate is the worst thing to happen to the chamber since the 17th Amendment allowed the direct election of senators, is a reminder of what the nuclear option is really all about—Obamacare, of course:

ObamaCare would never have passed if Mr. Franken hadn't stolen the Minnesota recount and prosecutors hadn't hidden exculpatory evidence to convict Alaska Republican Ted Stevens on false ethics charges. But liberals are showing that they'll only need 51 votes, not 60, to pass the next ObamaCare.

The editorial doesn’t get into exactly how Sen. Al Franken stole the election. And if this theft is news to you, that’s because you haven’t read the paper’s 2009 editorial after Franken was declared the winner of his recount against Norm Coleman.

There's no doubt it was indeed a remarkably close race. Out of 2.4 million votes cast in Minnesota’s Senate election, "Mr. Franken trailed Mr. Coleman by 725 votes after the initial count on election night," the paper notes, "and 215 after the first canvass.” And Franken’s lead only grew from there, as more votes were recounted. How? "The unfortunate lesson is that you don't need to win the vote on Election Day as long as your lawyers are creative enough to have enough new or disqualified ballots counted after the fact." The Journal must have meant "creative" literally, as in the lawyers created votes for their candidate. "[T]he Franken team ginned up an additional 1,350 absentees from Franken-leaning counties. By the time this treasure hunt ended, Mr. Franken was 312 votes up, and Mr. Coleman was left to file legal briefs." Ah, that’s how the votes came to be. They were ginned up in a treasure hunt.

Now, the Journal is right that there was prosecutorial misconduct in Stevens' 2008 corruption conviction—the Justice Department brought down the hammer for it. And it’s true that without a scarlet "C" branded to his chest, Stevens might have won his close race against Democrat Mark Begich, who ended up being a crucial vote for Obamacare. But this kind of what-if revisionism becomes absurd at a certain point. Sure, if a million factors hadn't come together, Obamacare would not have passed. If Ann Dunham hadn't met Barack Obama Sr. at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Obamacare might be called, well, Hillarycare. If proteins hadn't coalesced into self-replicating compounds in the primordial soup, Obamacare sure as hell wouldn’t have passed.

I'm not sure what any of this has to do with the nuclear option (and I'm not sure the Journal editorial board does either), but we can all agree with the Journal’s stance that history would be totally different if history had been totally different.

Ryan Vogt is a Slate copy editor.