Bipartisanship and Real Health Care Reform

Read a great piece today by EJ Dionne from the Post where he talks about the current health care debate and how bipartisanship is weakening the prospects for real health care reform.

From the article,

“Where did we get the idea that the only good health-care bill is a bipartisan bill? Is bipartisanship more important than whether a proposal is practical and effective?…

Most Democrats believe that fixing the system will require increased government intervention to guarantee universal coverage and to contain costs. Most Republicans oppose an expansion of government’s role and believe an even more market-oriented system would pave the way to health-care nirvana. Trying to achieve full bipartisanship by squaring those two views is a recipe for incoherence.”

What I dislike about bipartisanship is that while it is a noble goal, politicians have sorely abused it in the worst way. During the campaign trail, bipartisanship is often trumpeted as one way to get approval of what is considered the Holy Grail of American politics; the swing voter. Once candidates become elected, their almost certain decision to stand for re-election impacts what policies they choose and how their method of attack. Here again, bipartisanship is noted as a key goal of any major policy push. In this way, politicians have political cover if something goes wrong, said politician can say, “Now wait a minute, this bill was even supported by my friends from across the aisle.” (e.g. the vote to authorize force in Iraq) Which to translate means that because everyone is wrong, no one is wrong so chill out with this accountability.

Moreover, what is horrible is that because the Democrats control everything, Congress and the President are each other’s scapegoats. The President can say that he laid out broad themes that he wanted Congress to use as they marked up legislation while Congress can say that their need to compromise was taken because of the cues they got from the White House.  Which in the end brings us back full circle to bipartisanship.

Twenty to thirty years from now, history will look back on effort to reform health care as Obama’s alone. As it relates to this issue and others (like how massive tax cuts made it to the stimulus bill and Republicans still voted against it) it appears that too often, the Obama administration falsely assumes bipartisanship as necessary when it is not. I respect your decision to respect the separate branches of government but you need to be more forceful in making sure a public option is in this bill.

I remember reading somewhere that there was a time during the campaign when things were not going well and you were not attending the daily morning conference call/meetings with the senior campaign staff. During a conversation with a friend/confidant, he/she told you that you needed to put your hands on your campaign and that you needed to be more hands on. By all accounts from the story (again, can’t remember where) once you became more engaged, things got better. I can only hope that you are knee deep in this health care fight but don’t want to tip your hat in public. If that is the case, please continue your work. However if it is not happening, get in the game before you get boxed in signing away your legacy to a watered-down, at least we did something bill to reform health care.

Stay up fam,

Brandon Q.

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