Seems like the prolonged and fractious battle over healthcare reform in America has been the political and social war of our times. Turns out, it may have been only one raging national conflict that preceded what’s to come.

And, says Michael Goodwin in the New York Post, we’d best get ready for the sequel, and what follows that.

That’s because the battle over health care is merely a front in a larger war. Thanks to President Obama’s statist agenda, America’s new civil war is, at heart, the mother of all culture wars.

It’s the showdown between Americans who want bigger government and those who want smaller government. And it won’t be over anytime soon.

Not only does it encompass and include other wedge issues, such as abortion, taxing and spending, but the war over the size of government goes to the heart of the concept of American exceptionalism.

And there’s been quite a cultural battle over that in the short tenure so far of this president and his administration.

His health-care obsession, with industry tentacles reaching 17 percent of the economy, reveals his vision. There is little dispute the industry has big flaws, yet Obama passed up a bipartisan chance to fix most of them.

He opted for a sweeping expansion and takeover that would put Washington in charge of every aspect, from levels of care, to cost, to mandates, to jobs and taxes.

Ultimately, no American will be able to escape its centralizing impact, which is why opponents are so ferocious and frightened. While Obama tries to blame Republicans, most of the country, especially independent voters, is running away from his plan even though some components are popular.

It’s the sheer size — the expensive big government grab — that is stoking anti-takeover passion.

Pass or fail, the issue will move off center stage. But there will be no rest for a weary nation.

Goodwin predicts that a lineup of issues will successively try the identity of America as a representative republic in which the majority will of the people determines government, and replace that traditional model with one that subordinates the individual to the state, “with the feds aiming to run everything…” in every aspect of society.

Their vision is to gradually erode local control and shift power to Washington.

As with health care, parts of each issue make practical sense. Reducing our reliance on foreign oil, for example, is a goal most Americans share.

But what they object to, and will continue to resist, is the animating impulse that gives Washington more control over our daily lives. That is the definition of a statist, and it’s what Obama is.

But he believes that if he can just explain his vision better, the people will fall in line behind him, and he has plenty of reason to believe that.

Not surprisingly, he refuses to grasp why a clear majority of America now opposes his health care takeover.

“People have lost faith in government,” he said at a recent rally in St. Louis. “They had lost faith in government before I ran, and it has been getting worse.”

Actually, people haven’t lost faith in government. They just don’t think bigger is better. And the bigger he wants to make it, the less faith they have in him.

But with his healthcare victory this week, don’t expect him to get that anytime soon.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....