Monday, March 22, 2010


One of many themes of the Party of No is that the process of health care reform (and of the economic recovery act, too) was not transparent. Allow me a contrary view: the problem is it was TOO transparent.

For the first time that I remember, we've been privy to the messiness of legislation: the give and take, the wheels, the deals. Compromise in all its glorious ugliness. So people got excited. They got schooled. They got pissed.

They had to confront the platitudes and plaster them with practicality. They had to answer the most basic of American questions: do you believe in democracy, or not? Turns out, for lots of people, the answer is no. Hell no.

In Congress (to coin a phrase) it would seem the entire Republican party is on the "no" side. Among Democrats, so are several -- but, by contrast, far from all -- members, including (until the day I'm writing this, reportedly) Bart Stupak.* Among the teabaggers, without question, there isn't a democracy believer among them, not a one. Likewise, it must be said, among some on the far left.

Democracy and compromise are joined like Chang and Eng. It's only in the kind of government that the wingnuts claim to abhor that a person can get 100% of what he or she wants, and that's only if that person is the dictator.

I don't like that the health care bill is based on private insurance, allowing the same huge amounts of money to be sucked out of the system and distributed to investors and CEOs. I'd prefer, at minimum, a "public option." Similarly, I didn't like that the stimulus bill spent forty percent of its money on tax cuts. I wish -- but I don't expect -- that all legislation were perfectly to my liking. But that's simply not the way it works. In democracies, it can't work that way. Until the Obama presidency, lots of people were able to ignore that fact. Our problem is that reality has set in. And those same people can't handle it. Given the legacy of Ronald Reagan, namely that we can have everything we want and not have to pay for it (and that government is not supposed to work), it's not surprising that most of those people are on the right side of the political spectrum. But it isn't helpful.

Despite the elimination of the public option, despite taking single-payer off the table, despite giving central stage to private insurers, the right say they were ignored. "Left out of the process" as a commenter likes to say. Bullshit on its face: the bill is so centrist that it mirrors prior Republican proposals, and has lost the support of many liberals because of it. The stimulus bill was smaller and built much more on tax breaks than liberals wanted. No matter. Not a vote for either by Republicans, and no support by their loudmouths. In a democracy, among people who believe in, uh, democracy, that simply should not be the case. Yet here we are. And there we go.

The process has been more than transparent. It's made the right wing face something they hadn't heretofore acknowledged: they neither understand nor approve of the most fundamental idea of democracy: compromise. The process was so see-through that it become obvious.

As the right wingers take us further and further toward deliberate diseducation, and away from actual understanding of the real meaning of our form of government, the future looks worse and worse. If everyone listened more to the Stones, we'd be a hell of a lot better off.

* Seems official. So unlike all the Rs, one of the most intransigent Ds was willing to accept some degree of compromise. Sorta proves my point, doesn't it?


  1. Seriously. Those of us who are civics geeks -- like people who watch the entire NBA draft, although probably less fun to hang out with -- should have been more considerate and at least sent out warnings. It's ugly and heartbreaking and boring and corrupt and a godawful mess, but it's democracy of a sort and I had a great time watching.


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