January 28, 2010


Obama in the Balance (The Editors, January 27, 2010, New Republic)

For generations, health care reform has been a signature cause of liberalism--a campaign to redress a great moral failing of our democratic capitalist order, and a unique failing of our system when judged next to its peers in the industrialized world. Never before has a Democratic president inherited more propitious circumstances for advancing reform to fruition. And, although liberals might have griped as reform plodded its way through the various fiefdoms of the Senate, a monumental bill ultimately emerged, an impressive work of consensus that survived the interest-group ringer and the annoying maneuverings of Senators Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman. Congress was one or two perfunctory roll-call votes away from sending a bill to Obama’s desk. That’s when Brown won his upset, instantly making the distance the bill needed to travel to the president’s desk seem unbearably immense.

But to squander this opportunity--after such intricate negotiation and so much expenditure of political capital--makes no rational sense. Abandoning health care now wouldn’t render Democrats any less vulnerable. They have already taken tough votes in support of the measure; they just wouldn’t have any tangible achievement to show for those votes. Defeat would set back the chances for meaningful reform for a generation. What Democratic politician would ever set foot in that graveyard again? And, after health care has stalled the rest of the president’s agenda for a large swath of his first year, what grand accomplishment would he have to show for his time in office? The bill’s defeat would rightly send his liberal base into a fit of depression--and it would send a dangerous message to his enemies that he will shy away from a fight on even his top priorities.

Where is the Congress that they were watching where a bill was ever going to get to his desk? The Brown victory just gave them an easy way out.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 28, 2010 3:53 PM
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