So. It’s been a rough 6-8 months, hasn’t it? You get into office, you pass a massive stimulus bill that has, by all measures, kept the economy from going completely over the cliff; you expand S-CHIP, reverse one of of the worst Supreme court decisions in recent history (until last week, of course), and you pass through each branch of Congress a version of health care reform that, while imperfect, takes giant strides in reining in the worst insurance company excesses, provides subsidies for lower-income individuals and families to purchase health insurance, and, to varying degrees, provides cost-containment going forward so that health care doesn’t bankrupt us as individuals and as a country.
What do you get for this? You get Republicans complaining about budget deficits (which is like tobacco companies complaining about lung cancer, but still). You get ignorant tea party folks at town hall meetings yelling about death panels and urging you to “keep Government out of my Medicare.” (I know, right? Not the sharpest tools in the shed, these teabaggers.) You get a subsidiary of the Republican National Committee that is also a cable “news” network blasting you 24-7.
And now, an incompetent Democrat in Massachusetts loses Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat and puts the whole health care ball of wax in peril, even though Massachusetts voters would still like health care reform to pass.
After all, Republicans in the Senate would filibuster apple pie if Barack Obama baked it, so there’s no chance a bill coming back from conference gets a straight up-or-down vote; House progressives think the bill the Senate passed is so toxically full of little bits of pork inserted to get a few of the more recalcitrant conservative Democrats to play along that it can’t be salvaged, not to mention that almost every House Democrat thinks the Senate is an institution full of fail; and Democratic Senators either seem to think they’ve done their hard work on health care, and it’s time to move on, or that 100,000 people in Massachusetts spoke for the entire nation in electing Scott Brown to the Senate.
Oh – and did I mention that the November midterms look horrendous for you guys? Yeah, you probably knew that, too. Maybe that’s why you’re all hiding under your desks.
I’m trying to think of the right words here – words that will stay with you and be both guide and comfort in your actions over the next few months. ready? Here goes.
I don’t give a flying fuck how tough things are for you.
There – I feel better. Do you?
Do you think I care for one minute that your inability to fight hard for things you allegedly believe in has caused you some political difficulty? (Well, sure, I kinda gave it away a couple of paragraphs ago.) You all have jobs. The least among you gets $174,000 a year, PLUS health insurance, PLUS a handy Doctor at the Capital to help you out if you need it. And, should you lose your re-election bid this fall, you’ll probably end up making more money for a lobbyist or government contractor.
Or, put another way, it’s unlikely that you’ll have to worry about buying insurance on the open market. Trust me, you don’t want ANY part of that.
(Funny story. Turns out an animator who worked on Mulan, Brother Bear, and VeggieTales – maybe your kids have seen them? – is asking his fellow animators to auction off original artwork to help him with his son’s medical bills. See, young Matt Hodge was in a car crash while the family had short-term insurance, and is still in a coma. And now – wait for it – his coma is a pre-existing condition, so he is uninsurable! Doesn’t our system just work great?)
Of course, millions of us are stuck in that market, because we’re not working for a corporation and we’re not old enough to get Medicare.
So you’re faced with a set of imperfect choices:
- Conclude that the American people don’t want or need health care reform, based on a fluke election in Massachusetts. Problem? You screw over millions of Americans. Oh, well. Did I mention that if you do that, you probably lose control of the House of Representatives? Well, there’s that, too.
- Give up on the bills that passed both houses and achieve smaller, incremental reform through items that can be passed through reconciliation. Problem? Lots of meaningful regulations on insurance companies go by the wayside. Advantage? Senators don’t have to talk to anyone in the Republican party.
- Go through the conference process with the house, bring the amended bill to the Senate floor, and whine when the Republicans, as promised, filibuster the bill. Who knows – maybe enough time has passed that Olympia Snowe won’t feel the process is “rushed”, and she’ll vote for cloture. Nah – that won’t happen. So come November, keep whining about how you can’t get anything done with 59 votes. Let me know how that works out for you.
- The Senate passes, via reconciliation, what would have been the conference report adjustments to the Senate Bill, and the House passes that package, and the Senate Bill, more or less simultaneously. You get roughly the bill you would have gotten if Martha Coakley had a pulse, and then you can talk about what you’ve done, as opposed to a miserable, avoidable failure that has a real impact – not on your pathetic little political careers (although it will, I promise you, help them), but on millions of people around the country.
- You do some version of (4) above, but bolster it with a decent public option on the insurance exchanges, or maybe medicare buy-in. Of course, the Republicans would call you REALLY mean names if you did that.
Now, I know it’s not often we get our first choice in life. I mean, when I was younger, I had a big crush on Justine Bateman. Believe it or not, that didn’t stop me from dating other women. Jerry Brown fancied Linda Ronstadt way back when, and…well, OK, he did go out with her. Never mind.
My point is this: Option 4 (affectionately known as “Plan B” around Capital Hill) is a pretty damned good one (Option 5 is better, but hey – you’re Democrats, and Rome wasn’t built in a day). Sure, it could be better. But if you’re at a party and Shakira wants you to show her the town, don’t whine to her that Brooklyn Decker married Andy Roddick and is no longer available, or you’ll be going home alone.
Seriously, I said it before: Get over yourselves. It’s not a pissing contest, and it’s not about you. It’s about millions of people who are drowning, and you’re the only ones with the life preservers. I don’t know if you’ll lose in November if you stand up and do the right thing, but I’m pretty sure of this: if you do the right thing and lose, you were gonna lose anyway. That being the case, why not go out with a signature achievement on your resume? After all, the Democratic Party does stand for something, doesn’t it?
P.S. Hey, President Obama – I’m copying you on this because, well, maybe you know some of these folks and could talk to them? Thanks.