Monday, March 08, 2010

Quotes of the Day: Jon Chait and Ezra Klein on health-care reform (what else?)

I don't mean to be too glum. Heath care reforms still stands a good chance of passage, and it hardly lacks for supporters. Still, the general thrust of elite sentiment has been, as I said, depressingly myopic. It's natural to focus on improving a piece of legislation whose details remain in flux. The problem comes when the desire to improve becomes the dole focus for evaluating it. Nearly any of the great political advances in American history, viewed from ground level, looked like a pastiche of grubby compromises and half measures. At some point the imperative is to take the broader view. If they ever do that-- whether health care reform succeeds or fails -- the critics from the delusional left, the hysterical right and the sullen center will feel ashamed.


Reading Chris Bowers's excellent list of the progressive priorities fulfilled or partially fulfilled by the health-care bill's sidecar amendments is a reminder of how peculiar the framing of this debate has been. There's no doubt that progressives have suffered some real losses in the legislative process. The public option, for one. But along the way, a lot of progressives have lost sight of the fact that the very existence of this legislative process is a huge progressive victory. 

I don't mean to be anti-progressive, or anything of the kind, as my own views on health care -- I support the single-payer model -- are deeply progressive. But let's be real about this. The Senate bill + patches isn't ideal, but it's something, something historic, something that could lead to additional reforms down the road. It's what Democrats, and those on the left broadly, have been working for and waiting for for decades.

Klein is right, there have indeed been "some real losses" for progressives. And it's also true that Obama didn't do enough to promote a more progressive reform package, one with a robust public option. But what are we going to do about that now? Sabotage this incredible opportunity to get something done, something that is still, in an imperfect way, transformational?

Klein again:

[T]he fact of it is that this bill represents an enormous leftward shift for American social policy. It is not, in my view, a sufficient leftward shift, but it is unmatched by anything that has passed into law in recent decades. Progressives have lost some very hard battles but are on the cusp of winning an incredibly important war. For all its imperfections, health-care reform itself is deeply, deeply progressive. And if you don't believe me, just ask the conservatives who have made opposing it their top priority.

There you go.

It is a bitter thing, I know, to have to swallow a compromise bill written to appeal to "ConservaDem" support, and to accept demands made by the likes of Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman. It doesn't seem like a win. But it is, and it's a big one, and it's time, long past time, to put aside our differences and to accept that this is it, like it or not, that it's much better than nothing, that it contains some genuinely progressive elements, that millions of people will benefit from it, and that it could very well be the start of a major shift in America towards greater justice and fairness not just with respect to health care but more broadly within society as a whole.

That, it seems to me, is worth fighting for -- and, to that end, worth uniting for.

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