Friday, March 19, 2010

How the reform bill will break the gridlock on Capitol Hill

It's long been obvious that the basic strategy of the GOP is to run on the premise that "big" government is broken and then once in office, do everything possible to make sure it doesn't work -- at least for the working class. You have to credit the Republicans for being able to pull that off when they're in power, giving away the store to their wealthy cronies while preserving the illusion that this somehow benefits working class Americans.

Since they've been in the minority, the Republicans have doubled down on the methodology of procedural gridlock knowing that most voters don't pay enough attention and will blame the majority party for being unable to govern. However, as Ezra points out today, the real danger of this strategy is it sets up DC for permanent gridlock, as in neither party being able to effectively govern forever.

Which brings us to the health reform bill. I don't know anybody who loves this bill. Yes, it's a giveaway to the corporations. All major bills are and always have been. And who the hell knows if it will make things better, though it's hard to imagine how it could make things worse. But for me, the most horrible part of this whole ordeal has been finding myself at odds with people I know and whose judgement I respect, like Avedon Carol. I read her arguments against passing the bill and they're good ones but on a practical level, they seem to me to be based too much on what should happen, rather than on what can realistically happen.

Sure the Democrats should have started with single payer. They didn't. That's the reality. Our politicians are bought off. Killing the single biggest attempt to change the system, even if only at the margins, won't change that dismal fact. Further, I just don't see how killing the bill won't help the Republicans who have made it their mission to destroy it. Not to mention it only encourages the Tea Party types to believe they really are in the majority and will reinforce the whole meme that the government just doesn't work. If the bill passes, these newly minted activists will get discouraged when they discover just making noise isn't enough. But Steve Pearlstein articulates the point I'm trying to make better than I can.
Most of all, enacting health-care reform would be a desperately needed victory for a political system teetering on the verge of breakdown. Years of polarization, partisanship and stalemate have led to a widespread and cynical belief that Washington is simply incapable of solving any major problem. Passing a health-care reform bill would restore not only a measure of trust and confidence in our political process but also, more significantly, trust and confidence in ourselves.
In the end, I fail to see how working to give the Republicans the victory in killing the bill in order to punish the Democrats for failing to move far enough to the left, is going to advance progressive causes.

As for the argument that once the bill is passed it can't be fixed, doesn't that imply that progressives think they can't elect more progressives to office in the future? I mean, if progressives were all that powerful, wouldn't we have had enough legislators in office already to have advanced single payer on this go around? And if the theory is kill the bill now and make a better one later, why can't we pass the bill now and make it better in the future?

It breaks my heart to find myself at odds with friends, but you can't have progressive policies without the progress and passing this bill would constitute progress. Bad, good or indifferent, this is still the single biggest attempt the Democrats have made to challenge the system in decades and for good or ill, a political victory matters. I'm willing to work to give it to them. If that makes me a bad liberal or gets me drummed out of the progressive community, so be it.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Blogger Michael Stanton said...

This bill is what we have after a year of work. We won't get this opportunity again. I think the Democrats and the people who elected them need a win. Get it done!

3:54:00 PM  
Blogger Mark W Adams said...

This was a terrific posts. There's so much good stuff here in such a short space ... wow. Thanks for this.

10:20:00 PM  
Blogger ed waldo (Hart Williams) said...

Exactly right, Libby. I would urge people who can't abide by what comes of compromise and the free-for-all of legislative process to watch the musical 1776.

It's not a substitute for a civics course, but it's sure a good start.

If we do not pass something, no politician in our lifetimes will ever touch health care again.

If we do pass this, first it's better than what we've got, and second we CAN revisit it. But, given the forces arrayed against even this modest beginning, it's unrealistic to think that going to a public one-payer option will happen all at once.

As Hubert Humphrey used to say: Half a loaf is better than none.

I wish that more progressives understood that. But they don't. They're too busy being "brilliant."

3:00:00 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Thanks for this, Libby, it's my position, too. We work for the best we can get, and work hard. However, throwing out the results if it's not all our way is churlish and fails the whole progressive movement. And as you say, helps the right wing.

4:25:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Thanks so much for the support everybody.

11:03:00 AM  
Anonymous abi said...

What breaks my heart is how progressives are so quick to turn on each other. KOS and others recent lambasting of Dennis Kucinich is a sad case in point.

You shouldn't have to feel like you're about to be drummed out of the progressive community. But it's understandable, because for all our professed, 'enlightened' progressive ideas, we can be a pretty intolerant bunch sometimes.

10:38:00 AM  

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