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Sunday, October 11, 2009

When Democrats Act Like Democrats, They Pass Good Bills and Deserve to Win

Yes, I actually do remember how to blog. Sort of.

After being absent for far too long, due to family, work, and training commitments, it's time to pick up pen - or at least pixels, or something - again. I am going to start with this YouTube video, which many viewers have already seen. That's because repetition is vital to making any point stick.

Cynics have stated that if you repeat a lie loud enough and often enough, the public will believe it. If that's true, it's vital to repeat the truth even more often and even more loudly so that it overrides the lie, also sticks in the public's memory, and ultimately gets believed while the lie is drowned out. And freshmen Florida congressman Alan Grayson has told a vital truth that Democrats are in danger of forgetting. So we better repeat it loudly and often. That truth is a reminder of how we retook the House, the Senate, and the White House. First the video, and then I will have a few things to say about it.

Besides all the important things Congressman Grayson says about actual health care reform, the most important truth is that Democrats got elected by defining their core principles, and presenting themselves as the party of change. They promised new ideas. Then something terrible happened to them once they succeeded in winning. They got scared of being Democrats.

With Republicans vowing to obstruct them in Congress, tea baggers and assorted crazies showing up at their town halls, people who didn't even live in their districts outshouting those who did at those gatherings, and other shenanigans Democrats began scurrying for protective cover. Part of the problem is that one of President Obama's most attractive promises was to usher in a new era of bipartisanship and political civility. That was an irresistible promise, especially to the many Indpendents who had grown weary of the arrogance and swagger of the Newt Gingriches, Tom DeLays, and even George W. Bushes. The desire for a more inclusive and civil discourse appealed to moderates and progressives alike. And they really thought Obama could deliver on that promise.

Although sincere and well-meaning, they underestimated the depth of anger that the extreme right wing, which composes the base of the Republican Party, harbors for the new president. I think most of us were genuinely shocked to realize that these people actually wish for America to fail rather than risk seeing an Obama presidency succeed. In short, they are the sorest of sore losers. For them, politics comes before true patriotism and don't you ever forget it.

That's why it's time - actually long past the time - to move ahead and use the Democratic majority to bring about the change that the public voted for, even without one single Republican vote if necessary.

One reason senate Democrats aren't doing this, however, is because, despite having 60 votes, they are scared that if their legislation fails to do what it's supposed to do, they will have nobody to share the blame with. So, what they are doing is seeking the cover and protection that can only come from a bipartisan bill. It's not about politeness or civility. It's about cowardice. They want somebody in the other party who can deflect some of the blame from them should health care reform fail.

But guess what?

If the Baucus bill passes, as it now stands, it will be a boon to insurance companies, will raise premiums for those in the middle class who have good benefits, will force working class people to buy coverage they can't afford, and will anger everybody just as they fear. In other words, if the Democrats sacrifice true health care reform, with a public option, at the altar of faux bipartisanship, they will indeed be blamed and be swept out of office in the next election cycle. And Olympia Snowe will not be able to save their sorry butts.

On the other hand, if they do nothing, they face the same fate.

The only thing that will give them half a fighting chance to avoid that fate is to get health care reform right. To pass a bill that actually improves health coverage, provides affordable health care insurance, and improves our health care delivery system and that funds it with fair taxes, including a surtax on the wealthy. There is no reason for those making over a quarter million dollars a year not to pay their fair share as long as they reap the same benefits as everybody else.

This is not about soaking the rich or sticking it to them. It's about everybody contributing to the common good and benefiting from it equally.

And it's also about Democrats remembering why they joined the Democratic Party rather than the Republican Party. I would hope it's because we are the party that actually still believes in a common good that benefits everybody. That doesn't make us socialists. It doesn't make us enemies of capitalism. It just means we realize that markets, while very good at doing what they are designed to do - sell goods - doesn't have the answer to every problem. Neither does government.

It's important to figure out what the markets are best at doing and what the government is best at providing and not confuse the two. That's what Democrats used to know and understand. They should reacquaint themselves with that principle.

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