There is an old expression in the recording industry that says, "Fix it in the mix."
For the uninitiated, the idea is that even if the band screws up during the recording sessions, they and the engineer and the producer can all sit down afterward at the mixing console and make good things happen. Almost anything can be fixed during the mixing process. There's nearly always some small part of even the worst take that can be salvaged. The crucial thing is to get the initial recording done, since that is the most difficult part of the whole process.
With this in mind, I feel compelled to once again add my voice to those who are urging the progressives, the activists and the disillusioned to stop whining and get on with the difficult and necessary task of improving the Health Care Reform bill that is likely to pass in January.
The recording is in the can. Now fix it in the mix!
As a rallying cry, it is a bit imperfect, but it suits the situation. Whatever bill emerges from the numerous "takes" that occurred during the negotiations will be far from perfect. But there is a lot more that can be done to make it better, and it's crucially important that those who fought so hard to get us here continue to make their voices heard.
In the near-term, there are myriad ways to improve the bill as Congress works to reconcile the measures that passed in each chamber. But the bill won't improve if the most ardent and passionate supporters of reform sit on the sidelines nursing their wounded idealism. If we abandon the process during these crucial days and weeks, while the special interests continue to pressure and to bribe our elected officials, we will be putting the fate of the bill in the hands of those who have already compromised too much. There is still much that can be done to influence the outcome of these negotiations.
Over the long-term, if a bill does pass in January and the Congress moves on to other legislative priorities, health care reform will inevitably disappear from the headlines. But there will be a lot going on behind the scenes. Many of the reforms and regulations don't kick in for several years. There is going to be a huge PR fight during these years, more pressure and bribes from the health care and insurance industries and, yes, a whole bunch of back-room deals ("I'm shocked, shocked to learn that back-room deals were conducted during these negotiations!"). During these years, activists on both sides will have the opportunity either to improve the bill or weaken it further. Everyone who believes in the fight for universal care must continue to fight for it or risk losing hard-won ground.
To extend my original analogy, there is a famous story from recording history: after the Beatles finished recording "Let it Be," they were so fed up with each other and the whole project, they walked away and handed the tapes over to the producer Phil Spector. Any Beatles fan can tell you what happened next. He made a complete hash of it. Left to his own devices, he produced an album that had almost nothing to do with the original idea behind the project. It was universally regarded as a complete fiasco.
Almost forty years later, a new version of "Let it Be" emerged that stripped away the mess made by Phil Spector and restored the recordings to what the Beatles had originally intended. It was brilliant.
If we cede the fight over the health care bill to the Phil Spectors of Congress and the lobbying industry, it may be another forty years until a health care bill emerges that is true to the ideal that has animated this fight since the beginning of the last century - universal, affordable health care for all.
I don't want to wait that long.
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