In the wake of Scott Brown’s (un-)surprising victory in Massachusetts’ recent special election, President Obama is visibly trying to project calm:
Here’s my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country: the same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry and they are frustrated. Not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years, but what’s happened over the last eight years. [. . .]
Here’s one thing I know and I just want to make sure that this is off the table. The Senate certainly shouldn’t try to jam anything through until Scott Brown is seated. People in Massachusetts spoke. He’s got to be part of that process.
If he means what he says, we’re in trouble. On the first point, the President is surely right. Conservatives and right-leaning moderates are visibly frustrated, but their frustration is both premature and misdirected. It took the general public five and a half years of gradual failure to lose patience with George W. Bush; but congressional Republicans have, in the space of a year, managed to blame Obama’s failure to right the ship of state on her new captain, rather than on the man who tore a gaping hole in her side in the first place.
But the answer must be to patch the hole as fast as possible — not to stall for a consensus on precisely how that must be done. Accordingly, on Obama’s second point, a thousand times no. Over the course of this past year, the Republican Party, and their constituents, have shown a complete disinterest in the work of governing. In retrospect, it was a mistake to put consensus ahead of results. Because it will never come, Obama waits for a bipartisan consensus at his peril. Results will bring consensus, and although the Senate version of the healthcare bill, as it stands, is an imperfect vessel, it’s a substantial improvement over the status quo, at a time when Democrats must, for the good of the country, secure a result.
Our best option, therefore, are these:
- Threaten to pass a separate, simple public option bill through reconciliation, now, if the current Senate bill fails;
- Promise the same to House Democrats, should they pass the Senate bill as is, thus taking the Senate completely out of the equation and putting the legislation on Obama’s desk ASAP;
- Sign the current bill into law, and;
- Ram a public option through reconciliation anyways.
There’s no value left in the middle ground. We’ve paid the price for pushing left; it can literally only get worse if we emerge with nothing to show for it. A risk half-taken is the worst of all possible worlds.