It's true that politics is the art of the possible, but it's also true that
great leaders expand the scope of possibility. Barack Obama took office pledging
to be a transformational president. The fate of a government-run public health
insurance option will be an early test of his ability to end the way
Washington's big-money, special-interest politics suffocates true reform.
If conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats are successful in nixing a public
health insurance option and watering down other reforms, progressive voters have
a right to ask why they went to such trouble to elect Democratic majorities and
a Democratic president. But the Senate can still resort to a parliamentary
maneuver that would require only 51 votes, rendering most objections irrelevant.
Historical trends indicate that it's unlikely the Democrats will expand their
majorities in 2010. Politically, therefore, there's not likely to be a better
moment for health reform than right now.
It's also true, politically, that failure to get any health
reform measure passed and signed would be a severe blow to Obama -- and a bad
omen for the rest of his ambitious agenda to revolutionize U.S. policy on energy
and education. It would be understandable if the White House decided that the
important thing, at this point, was to get a "win" at all costs. Is this what
the apparent retreat on the public option signals?
If so, that would be not only wrong but also -- even at this point --
unnecessary, or at least premature. What the president hasn't done is the
obvious: Tell Congress and the American public, clearly and forcefully, what has
to be done and why. Take control of the debate. Consult less and insist more.
Remind the Blue Dogs who's president and who's not.
Giving up on the public option might be expedient. But we didn't
elect Obama to be an expedient president. We elected him to be a great one.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Consult Less And Insist More
Columnist Eugene Robinson asks in the WaPo, "Where's Mr. Transformer?":