Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Storm Troopers on the Mall?

I question whether this is a democratic constitutional republic anymore,” wailed Lou Dobbs.
“We need to defeat these bastards. We need to wipe them out, everyone of them.” Rush Limbaugh railed.
Did I miss something? Had liberal storm troopers come roaring down the Mall and taken control of Congress?
Not really, a pretty modest health care reform bill passed by 219 votes to 212. The earth didn’t stop spinning, life went on, and as far as I can tell Nancy Pelosi hasn’t moved into my doctor’s office.
But then I’m not even sure who my doctor is anymore. Prior to all this caterwauling, because of escalating premiums I was forced to change insurers; to my dismay the new private arbiter of my health does not do business with my MD of 20 years. Hey, maybe this qualifies me for Tea Party membership!
This is not a great bill because it doesn’t provide a public option - the only way costs will ever be reduced. But it’s not half bad either, if only because insurers will soon be barred from denying coverage to kids with pre-existing conditions – unfortunately, adults must wait four years for the same mercy.
Still, it’s a very practical bill because millions of unemployed college graduates, interns and uncovered workers may stay on their parents’ policies until their 27th birthdays.
Not to mention that many of us will sleep better knowing that insurers will be prohibited from dropping us should we take to our beds with anything stronger than a hangover.
And yet these tidings were like a wet Monday in Cultimagh for the Republican Party, though not for drug companies and the health insurance industry whose stocks advanced. Wall Street recognizes that bringing 32 million people into the system, far from being a government takeover, is a very pro-business initiative.
In fact, this controversial law will soon pay for itself through revenues raised from the jobs created to look after the health of all those newly insured.
The only downside is the Republican Party choosing to play politics rather than helping govern the country. To quote that great maverick Senator John McCain, “There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year.”
So when it comes to dealing with the various ills that beset the country we’re supposed to wait ‘til the balls fall off the Christmas tree before this conservative hissy fit ends?
Right now we need a Republican Party that is actively involved in governance. This is a two party democracy and when one opts out and allows the tail of Dobbs, Limbaugh, Beck and Palin to wag the dog of the Party of Lincoln then we all have problems.
The Bush administration squandered a surplus of billions and saddled us with a staggering deficit. And yet in its current winter of discontent, the Republican Party is unwilling to acknowledge these bald facts much less engage in any meaningful self-reflection.
Rather it has been flirting with a posse of irresponsible demagogues in an effort to return to power. To what end? Re-enact the same failed policies that caused double-digit unemployment and allowed Wall Street gamblers to push the very capitalist system to the brink?
This is no huzzah for the Democrats. The party of Bobby Kennedy is in hock to its own special interests. Big money has far too much influence on the body politic. Yet in fairness, many congressional Democrats put their seats on the line in the recent health care debate while the Party of No unanimously sat on its hands like a pouting teenager.
Notwithstanding this obstructionism, some of the most immediate health insurance ills were dealt with, so it’s on to regulation of a financial industry that almost crippled the country; it will be interesting to note how individual Republicans and Democrats vote apropos the vast amounts of money being poured into this upcoming battle by banks and financiers.
In its great history the Republican Party has been the champion of abolition, nation building at home, and fiscal responsibility. The party of Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower is now, however, at a crossroads. It can continue justifying nihilistic outrage for short-term political gain, or once more open the flaps of its big tent to reason and honest democratic compromise.
This is a dangerous time; it calls for temperate and constructive debate. The country is awash with guns and unruly passions.
All it takes is one lunatic with echoes of demagogic rants ricocheting around his head, then where will we be? Political expediency is one thing, stone cold tragedy another.

1 comment:

  1. Well said, Larry. The bill isn't perfect, but it's a start. I fear the Republican Party has irretrievably sunk into the mire of the fringe right, and that is bad for politics in America and even worse for governance.


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