Health care reform may finally move forward, if the President's excellent speech is any indication of the likely course of future events. The bottleneck is in the Senate Finance Committee, where Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley have supposedly been struggling to forge a measure that would draw 60 votes. Baucus is no liberal champion, and Grassley's public statements show that he is actually out to block any reform at all, and it is no surprise that progress has been stalled in their shop.
The President has tried to move this legislation forward with bi-partisan support, but the Republicans see no advantage politically in helping him achieve what would be a stunning reversal of the sorry history of health care reform in this country. He is right to try to change the tone of public discourse and to seek to bring together people of goodwill to bring changes we can mostly agree on -- surely we do not need more of the kind of ugly and divisive behavior that was evident at McCain-Palin rallies and more recently at Town Hall meetings. But the idea that compromise is always the best course, and that mollifying the so-called centrists is the right thing to do, is just plain wrong.
Tying our policy, and our nation's future, to the meandering and mindless middle is what produced the war in Iraq, the Bush tax cuts, the torture of detainees, and the meltdown of our financial markets. Where were these moderates when these things were happening? They were happy to go along with Bush and his radical economic and foreign policies. They raised no objection to the suppression of regulatory oversight of our financial services industry. They endorsed and tolerated and compromised their way through eight years that ruined us financially, empowered our enemies, punished our military and our military families, and exposed us to dishonor and shame.
It is clear that we need to avoid rancor and insulting speech, the personal attacks, and the appeals to fear and bigotry that have reinforced and magnified the fringe elements and rowdies who have emerged from the bars, and other places that feature FOX news and similar degraded forms of entertainment, to take their place as political spokesmen and women of middle America and to claim the loyalties of the likes of Chuck Grassley and Mike Enzi. Is it any wonder at all that Chuck Grassley stood before such people and told them they were right to worry that the government intended to pull the plug on Grandma?
Much of what passes for moderation is nothing more than mindless passivity and amoral abdication of a citizen's responsibility to be informed and to give serious thought to the public policy issues of the day; a natural consequence of such complacent neglect is uncertainty and self-centered inertia. It is very common to fear change and to hold onto the status quo even as it becomes ever clearer that the status quo cannot be sustained -- it is also common to prefer to be called a moderate than to admit you are simply complacent, uninformed, and afraid.
The time for all that passed a long time ago. Change, at long last, is inevitable. This may be our last chance to reform our health care system before we all go broke. The President has put forward a sensible and decent plan. It is not the single-payer plan that many of us wanted, but it deserves our endorsement and full support. It is time the blue dogs and moderates got on board or out of the way.