March 17, 2010

Courting courage on Capitol Hill

President Obama and fellow Democrats recently received a bit of advice from an unlikely sage: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The senior Kentucky Republican warned that voting in favor of the president’s health-care reform proposal will likely result in Democratic leaders losing their seats in the upcoming midterm election.

“Looking at poll data one could conclude that you would be history if you voted for this bill,” he told reporters. “I assure you that if this bill is somehow passed, it won’t be behind our Democratic friends, it’ll be ahead of them because every election in America this fall will be a referendum on this issue.”

How very altruistic of you, Mr. McConnell.

Meanwhile, GOP operative-turned-pundit/all-around right-wing weasel Karl Rove has been chiming in with his own words of wisdom. In a guest column penned for The Wall Street Journal, Rove cautioned, “The polling landscape is littered with warning signs for Democrats… Passage of the Senate health-care bill will make a GOP takeover of the House more likely this fall, especially if all Republican candidates pledge to make pushing for repeal their first order of business next year.”

On Sunday, Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., appeared on “Face the Nation,” where he likened the push for health-care reform to a “political Kamikaze mission.”

Going above and beyond to warn political adversaries of their potential downfall and offering advice on how to avoid self-destruction — that’s some serious bipartisanship.

Now, just in case your sarcasm detector is malfunctioning, and in the event that you have lost touch with this nation’s divisive political landscape, it is worth noting that these Republican prophets in fact have ulterior motives. Shocking, I know.

But will Democrats heed these alarming predictions nonetheless? Will the fear of losing power trump the desire to begin repairing a broken system? Will enough “progressives” opt to do nothing, spouting the tired old mantra, “It’s better to compromise on some issues and remain in office to do future good … yadda yadda yadda.”

Sadly, it is quite possible, despite the fact that polls show Americans are far from overwhelmingly opposed to revamping health care, as some of the propaganda being peddled misleadingly suggests. In reality, the nation is closely divided on the issue.

On Monday, a survey conducted by Rasmussen Reports revealed 43 percent of Americans support President Obama’s health-care plan, while 53 percent are opposed.

And while the nays have it, more than half of those polled believe they will end up paying more for health care if reforms are passed, despite the fact that one of the key goals is to lower costs.

There are myriad reasons why much of the American public is unclear about what exactly is being proposed. For one, the massive bill is complex, daunting enough to make even die-hard political junkies zone out. Equally as complicated are the convoluted means by which House Democrats could go about trying to pass the measure later this week. Of course, there are some people who simply don’t care, while others are merely resistant to change. Top all that off with the oversimplified, deceptive, panic-inducing talking points being tossed around by right-wing politicians and pundits, and you’ve got, well, utter confusion.

President Obama has spent much of the past week leading a last-ditch effort — a closing argument of sorts — to educate Americans and convince undecided lawmakers that change is needed. During a rally outside Cleveland Monday, the president repeated “We need courage,” a phrase aimed at Democrats on the fence, either because they fear the political repercussions of voting yes, or because they believe the legislative package does not go far enough.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, is among a contingent of liberal lawmakers opposing this bill because it lacks a public option. And while I agree with this position, the proposal on the table might very well be our only chance to achieve sweeping changes in the future. It’s a sentiment shared by MoveOn.org, a progressive grassroots organization that has launched a national ad campaign urging constituents to call their elected officials and ask them to support the health-care bill. The group also has vowed to help oust any no-voting Democrat in congressional primaries.

So to all those lawmakers wavering because they are scared of getting booted out of Washington: Grow a pair. 

Tagged: Editor’s Note |