Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Me on Health Care (Self Indulgence Alert!)

I was interviewed by one of the local stations on health care yesterday. You can access both the video and the online writeup here.

I was a bit nervous about how I would come across (I look terrible -- much worse than I actually do, too much close-up) because I try to play the ideological aspects pretty close to the vest when I am interviewed. In those situations my job is to be analytical and descriptive. It's not my job to ride some political hobby horse. But in the interview yesterday (you have to understand if you have not done these sorts of things before, they film a good deal of footage and then truncate it down to less than a minute of separate soundbites) they really could have made me look like a flaming liberal. They did leave out my best line, though, which was "Republicans had begun asserting that health care would be Obama's Waterloo only to find themselves on their own private Elba."

So how do I feel about the health care? (You won't gather it from the interview, which was almost wholly about Constitutional issues, and of course any answers with any depth are on the proverbial cutting room floor.) It is landmark legislation, the most important since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Joe Biden hit it just right: It's a Big Fucking Deal.

This is, of course, all theory now. We'll see what it looks like when it is implemented. But I think the passage of the act completely changes the trajectory, at least in much of the public mind, of the Obama administration, as well it should. I think that it finally accomplishes the biggest frustrated liberal goal of the last sixty or so years. And if anything, I wish it did more by incorporating a real public option.

The politics got really ugly. Obama did everything he could to reach out to a GOP that has decided that being the "Party of No" is a winning gambit. Politically it may well be. But from a governing and policy vantage point it is irresponsible. Some have tried to diminish the accomplishment by asserting that some Democratic defectors and no Republican votes somehow makes the law invalid, which reveals a silly misunderstanding of the benefits of holding a substantial majority, not to mention providing remarkable insight into how Republicans view important issues solely through the prism of partisanship.

Another popular argument is that Democrats will lose seats in the fall elections because of health care. The Democrats were going to lose lots of seats anyway. That's what happens during midterm elections. I would argue that the Democrats would have lost more seats had they not passed health care and that passing the law is a net plus. Now Republicans will have to go out on the stump on a platform of repealing something that is concrete and no longer theoretical.

And of course right-wing racism, sexism, homophobia and invocations of Stalin and Hitler continue unabated.

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