The televised Health Care Summit highlighted the new reality of American politics. It has become a sport or, if not sport, a high-stakes game of Survivor. At least thats the way Fox News Channel, MSNBC and CNN would like you to see it. They want you to tune in to see which side, the Democrats or the Republicans, will score the most points in the latest tracking poll.
Who will be portrayed as the latest villain? Who will stand out to become the MVP? And who will be shot down in flames?
Like it or not, politics have become a daily competition for your support and your vote. If President Obama scores with a speech or a proposal, the RNC with Fox and Limbaugh as cheerleaders, try to rally their base with appeals for fundraising, letter writing, phone calls and demonstrations to counter it. If John Boehner or Mitch McConnell score, the DNC with the MoveOn cheer squad immediately ask for money and petitions to smack down the opposition.
If the issues facing America weren’t so serious, this might all be great fun. But creating policy based on the ever-changing opinions of an under-informed public is a lousy way to govern.
Both sides need to stop trying to score points and do what they were elected to do: Solve problems for the American people. We still have thousands of Americans in harms way in two wars. We have millions who are unemployed and losing their homes. And according to the latest statistics, 33,000 people will lose their lives this year for lack of health insurance. Many more will face bankruptcy as a result of catastrophic illness.
These issues are too important for gamesmanship.
Over the past year, Senate Republicans threatened to filibuster legislation more than at any time in our nations history. They have threatened and blustered. And Senate Democrats have backed down. The result is that Democrats now need 60 votes to pass a bill instead of the 51 actually required by Senate rules.
Given that Democrats now number 59 in the Senate, and given that no Republicans have been willing to break ranks and vote for a Democrat-sponsored bill, what now?
To see the way to the future, Democrats simply need to look to the past.
You see, the reason the filibuster was seldom threatened in past decades is that the proponents of a bill were willing to call the obstructionists bluff. The mere threat of a filibuster was not good enough. If you threatened to filibuster, you actually had to do it. That meant speaking around the clock to prevent the legislation from moving forward. The filibustering party would move beds into the Senate chamber and prepare for a long, embarrassing ordeal. They would be forced to stand at the Senate lectern for days on end. If they tired and stopped, the filibuster ended.
The sight of Senators babbling for hours on end reading the Bible, the phone book and everything else at hand was great theater. But it seldom worked. A filibuster might last for days, but the obstructionists would eventually tire and the bill would proceed to a vote. In addition, the filibustering Senators often were punished by the voting public in the next election.
There was no need to seek compromise. No need to back down. The question is, why dont Democrats force the filibuster? They have the majority. Its time to rule.
Upon listening to Republican economists and some of the speakers at the CPAC convention, I think I better understand their vision for America. In a word, its bleak.
These people not only want to prevent health care reform and reduce national debt. They want to block any further government programs to save or create jobs. They want to allow market forces to correct the economy. Of course, they want to eliminate even more regulation, cut taxes and shrink government. Finally, they want to eliminate entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
Imagine what their vision would do for most Americans!
By most estimates, unemployment would rise to more than 15 percent. Of course, there would be no safety nets to help those without jobs or homes. Large corporations would continue to grow by swallowing weaker ones. And since corporations would be unregulated, they would not only influence Congress. They would virtually own it.
Hmmm, I always thought the definition of conservative is to preserve, save and protect. But to these people, it seems to mean quite the opposite.
Palins speech before a Tea Party convention of hundreds clearly points out two things. One, Palin is really good at delivering snide criticisms of the political left. Witness her comment directed toward President Obama, Hows that hope-y, change-y thing working out for you?
It was a typically snide Palin comment sure to excite the anti-Obama, anti-progressive, anti-government, anti-everything crowd. (In other words, the Fox News Channel viewers.)
In a Sunday morning interview on Fox, Palin broadly hinted at her candidacy for president in 2012. Its a candidacy unlikely to go very far, which brings me to my second point. Palin has shown absolutely no ability to lead. Yes, she has become the de facto leader of the rabble who call themselves the Tea Party. And its true that she served as mayor of a small town in Alaska. But almost anyone with a pulse could serve in such a capacity.
The true test of her abilities became apparent after she was elected to the office of governor. In that office, as demonstrated by recently released emails, she apparently spent much of her time looking for ways to defraud the state of Alaska into paying for travel for her family and rent for her personal home. In addition, she took nearly 6 months off to run as McCains vice-presidential candidate. During that time, it seems her only official acts as governor were to defend herself against a large number of ethics complaints many of which were confirmed. Then, after achieving some notoriety during the campaign, she quit the office for a book-signing tour of a book she didnt even write. More recently, it was revealed that she pirated funds from her Political Action Committee in order to purchase a large number of her books.
It has long been said that un-informed voters get the government they deserve. Keeping that in mind, if Palin ever becomes president, or even a congresswoman, U.S. voters will deserve the disaster thats sure to follow.
A new Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll of those who identify themselves as Republicans confirms what many of us have long suspected: Republican voters spend far too much time watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh. But not even the most cynical among us could have predicted the findings of this poll.
For example, 58 percent of Republicans are not sure President Obama is a natural-born U.S. citizen.
31 percent believe that the President is a racist who hates white people, and another 33 percent say theyre not sure.
63 percent of Republicans think Obama is a socialist.
24 percent of Republicans believe Obama wants the terrorists to win, and another 33 percent arent sure.
21 percent of Republicans apparently believe that Obama was elected only because ACORN stole the 2008 election, and a whopping 55 percent are not sure.
23 percent of Republicans believe that their state should secede from the United States, 19 percent aren’t sure.
And in their greatest display of lunacy, 53 percent of Republicans said they believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama! (Moreover, respondents to the poll didnt even include those who claim to belong to the Tea Party.)
Obviously, these people are angry and colossally misinformed. Now consider this: These people represent the Republican base to which Republican candidates must answer. Given that, can anyone believe that theres still hope for bi-partisanship in Washington?
The election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate, in effect, may have ended the existing Democrat-initiated bills for health care reform. That is not only a disaster for the party. Its a disaster for the millions of people without health care, the tens of thousands who will face bankruptcy as the result of illness, and the more than 33,000 Americans who will die this year for lack of access to health care.
It didnt have to end this way. If the Democrats had shown even an ounce of fortitude and political savvy, they could not only have passed health care reform by now. In all likelihood, they would have retained the Senate seat that they had controlled since the 1950s.
But thats all water under the proverbial bridge. The Democratic Party cant afford to wallow in self-pity and frustrations. They cant afford to point fingers at Republicans. As voters in Massachusetts have shown, Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves. If the Democratic Party wants to avoid a disaster in this Novembers elections, it has to find a spine. Democratic Representatives and Senators need to have massive injections of testosterone.The way forward is to act as if theyre representing the people who elected them. Not the special interest groups and lobbyists. They must do what they promised before they were elected. And they must collectively confront a belligerent and bellicose Republican Party. They not only must lead. They must reveal their opponents for what they really are: Representatives of big corporations and big money.
In a television interview, Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania pointed a way forward for health care reform. He said that he would recommend that Congress pass a bill that would impose anti-trust laws on insurance companies and forbid insurers from exempting pre-existing conditions and prevent them from dropping coverage whenever it becomes too expensive. He said that the insurance industry will, in turn, demand that all Americans be covered. Congress could then pass a complete reform package one step at a time. If Republicans threaten to filibuster, he said that he would let them do so. Republican Senators would be forced to read the phone book and other nonsense for days and demonstrate to the American public how obstructionist theyve become.
In my opinion, there may be better approaches. But the intent is correct. Somewhere Democrats must find what they have obviously been lacking for the past year – a pair of balls.