Friday, March 26, 2010

Learn the lessons

Since the American people are not the smartest when it comes to voting, and since it is inevitable that over the next 2-4 years the Democratic majority in the House and Senate will decrease or possibly end, I hope that the party of FDR is taking notes on how to run a successful opposition. While the Republicans did not manage to stop the health care bills that crawled through both houses of our legislative body, they did manage to strongly influence both the eventual law and the public perception of the majority party.

Without casting a single vote in its favor, the minority managed to get over 160 amendments added to the senate health care bill and push the resulting legislation far to the right of what those of us who voted for "hope" and "change" wanted. The health insurance bill that Obama signed into law was a far cry from anything the late Ted Kennedy had strongly advocated for all those years that he was in office. It was a far cry from anything Representative Dennis Kucinich could support with a clean conscience. And it fell far short of what the country needs in order to say we have substantively improved our health care system.

One of the reasons was the failure of the Democratic leadership to fight back against the minority's talking points, and their fear of being seen as partisan after the GOP made such a big deal of how post-partisan President Obama had promised to be. But in this sad tale there is at least the redeeming element that perhaps a lesson can be learned. The party of Nixon and Duke Cunningham has shown that if you play the game correctly, 41 senators can be almost as powerful as a super majority. They have shown that withholding money from our soldiers in times of war can be done for political reasons without repercussions. And they have shown that despite years of leading the charge to kneecap the public insurance plans that exist today (Medicare and Medicaid) it is still possible to pretend to be its stalwart defender in order to confuse voters.

So I hope that Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Steny Hoyer, and Tim Kaine have been taking notes because it probably won't be too long before they will be counted on to oppose Speaker Boehner, and senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and when they do, I hope they can do half as good a job at getting their way.

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