Based on the river of vitriol and/or gloating in my facebook friends feed this morning, I see that Team Obama (AKA the Democrats) managed to get some sort of legislation passed in the face of near universal opposition from Team We Hate Obama, No No No (AKA the Republicans).
I’m glad that this happened, for a couple of reasons.
The number one reason that I’m glad this passed is that it was a slap in the face to the Republican rhetoric of Obama as a failed president. Team “We Hate Obama,” (WHO) had managed to cast this vote as the defining moment of his presidency. A failure to get exactly what he wanted against a 100% unified opposition, less than 30% of the way through his first term would be (according to their narrative) sufficient to deem him an ineffectual and lame duck. I have no idea how Team Obama allowed themselves to get cornered in that one – but they did. They went all-in on a single issue, so they had to win. Team WHO also successfully sold the idea that a bill without Republican support would prove something or other about Obama’s moral character. “Ramming a bill down our throats,” was a bad thing … which meant that all they had to do was say “no,” in order to get some sort of “victory.”
Brilliant political strategy. Bad for the country, and a total disservice to the people who sent them there to serve – but brilliant nonetheless.
If we had a parliamentary system, this sort of crap might be sensible. After such a defeat, the opposition could call a vote of no confidence and seize control of the government. However in the American system – we have strict four year terms for our executive. This means that (and this is important) – team WHO was attacking the effectiveness of the president and the government itself for the next two and a half years.
If your instant urge at this point is to tell me about how the Democrats did the same thing to Bush – please shut up. If you feel any inclination to bring up the fact that Bill Clinton cheated on his wife, please go soak your head. You’re missing my point.
Me? I’m not a sports-fan sort of political thinker. I believe that all sides have the capacity to be wrong. Hell, I have even been known to question the moral superiority and divine mandate of the Red Socks from time to time. I don’t think that there exists a political victory worth throwing the national interest under the bus. Playing for a “victory,” of “no progress in any direction for two and a half years,” strikes me as a massive abdication of responsibility.
Then again, I’m sort of naive. Maybe this is just how the big kids play – all elbows and blocking the ref’s line of sight.
The other reason I’m glad it passed is that now we get to try *something*. As with climate change, petroleum dependence, the slaughter of top tier predators, drug resistant plagues, and so on … I think that the risks of inaction far outweigh the risks of any particular plan. This is triply true when we attempt said plans in the full light of day with vigorous and open debate. When all team WHO offers is “no no no! not that!” then we sort of have to go with whatever plan was actually laid on the table.
I only wish that we had a ‘majority’ and a vigilant and honest opposition party to push back and forth – agreeing that their goal is the good of the nation – and disagreeing on the details of how to achieve that good.
Note that neither of these reasons include me loving every detail of the legislation. At this point, I have very little feel for what’s in there. I heard a lot of ideas, both good and bad, get kicked around through this process. Last night I saw some headline go shooting past about a deal with abortion opponents. I’m pretty sure that last minute, tangentially related and hastily written deals on major hot button issues are going to come back to bite us later.
As mentioned previously – I also don’t like ‘big bang’ legislation that tries to solve a pile of different problems at once. In my mind, the expensive part of this bill (subsidizing some standard of care for folks who can’t afford the commercial system) could have been debated in isolation. Insurance regulation and the medical pricing model is amenable to isolated debate. Consumer protection might be a decent topic for discussion as well. Trying to do them all at once, with one party just shouting “commie!” from time to time was madness.
I understand that it’s flawed. I get it. I’m hip. I don’t claim to know exactly how it’s flawed. If you already knew – before it came out – exactly how you were going to feel about it, please spare me.