THE TREATMENT DECEMBER 4, 2009
Ezra Klein packs a lot of wisdom into this paragraph:
The first problem for people who care about policy outcomes--regardless of which direction they care about those outcomes from--is that the Congress has developed an overwhelming bias toward inaction and the status quo. It is much stronger now than it has been in the past, and it's exacerbated because we are much more divided now than we have been in the past. The answer to the systemic dysfunction on display in the health-care reform debate does not lie elsewhere in the health-care reform debate. For now, you get the best bill you can given the constraints we have. But seeing those constraints clearly is, I think, a step forward, because it's a useful guide to where we need to go next.
Ezra wrote that in response to critics angry at him for suggesting (a) compromises have rendered the public option weak to the point of worthlessness (b) health reform without a public option is still very worth pursuing. I don't entirely agree with (a), but I couldn't agree more with (b).
Like Ezra, I've been having this same argument with friends on the left for several months now. And, like him, I can be enthusiastic about (some) heavily compromised versions of reform because they will help tens of millions of people and because they represent the very best we can do under these political conditions.
Just think about how the filibuster, as currently practiced, distorts and constrains the process. When corralling sixty votes depends on winning over some combination of Senators Susan Collins, Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, and Olympia Snowe, passing truly liberal legislation is going to be difficult, if not possible. The only way to change that is by electing even more liberals to the Senate, changing the way the Senate runs, or some combination of the two.
That project will require time. It will also require convincing voters of something too few of them believe already: That government action can be make a difference in their lives. Passing health care reform, even a deeply flawed one, will help enormously in that regard.