I'm seeing a rash of diaries trying to spread blame for the prematurely declared failure of health care reform. People like to point their finger at a particular person or group because it gives them an outlet for their rage. But our failure to pass comprehensive health care reform is not the fault of any one individual or group; it's due to this simple fact: We live in a sharply divided country (much more closely divided than one might think given the current composition of Congress), and the depth of that division is manifested in the incredibly close fight we are seeing over the health care debate.
Below the fold, I will present what I consider to be five myths about the fight for health care reform.
[cross-posted at Marc's Space]
Myth #1 - We have a supermajority in the Senate.
On many of the progressive issues we care about most, Joe LIEberman is about as Democratic as Dick Cheney. So we're really stuck at 59. Moreover, we have a handful of "centrist Democrats" who simply do not share our progressive agenda. On any given issue, there are several Dems who will not side with the majority. So that takes us down from 59 to the mid-fifties. Sure, there are going to be some slam dunks where we'll get the payoff from that supermajority but for the thorny problems, we've really got 50-something senators on our side.
Myth #2 - Obama has not provided sufficient leadership.
Remember that Obama does not write the laws. It's up to Congress to get this bill passed. The president is like a coach and the senators and representatives are the players on the field. Given that fact, it seems to me the President has shown pretty decent leadership...he addressed the nation on this issue specifically and told us, and Congress, his criteria for success. In the same speech, he sketched, in broad terms, his outline of a detailed reform plan. On numerous occasions he's met with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle to try to smooth roadblocks and keep things moving forward.
Myth #3 - If only Harry Reid had a backbone we would get what we want.
I'm not a fan of Harry Reid but, I have to say, he has impressed me lately. Insisting on including a public option in this bill when it seemed clear that doing so would sacrifice nabbing 60 votes was a bold gambit and one that showed real leadership. I think he's doing the best he can to get something valuable for all of us out of this process but the filibuster proof numbers are simply not there without some major compromises.
Myth #4 - Democrats are dithering, two-faced, spineless losers who can't get their act together.
I believe there are good and bad elected officials on both sides of the aisle. I happen to believe in the agenda of the folks on the left but our opponents are not all stupid or evil. They just see things differently. But one thing I like about our side is we are more diverse in every way, and that includes our range of thought on various issues. So, with more diversity of opinions on our side, it's harder to get all of our elected officials to vote the same way. With a few notable exceptions, the Repubs seem to march more in lock-step. This diversity of thought is both a strength and a weakness. At the moment, it really sucks. :)
Myth #5 - We will send the Dems a valuable lesson by not voting in the next election.
No you won't. You'll just make it harder for us to move our country forward. Change happens incrementally. And it can also be reversed. This health care bill will undoubtedly be insufficient and unsatisfying in many ways to many people, but if it passes it will be the first time in my life that Congress actually did something to improve our broken system. And if you don't give up, we'll have additional chances in 2010 and 2012 to advance our majority even further, maybe to the point of having a real supermajority. OR...you can stay home and hand the leadership of our country back to the likes of Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin. It's your choice.