Tom Harkin, Senator from Iowa, proclaimed Wednesday  that Congress can proceed and pass Health Care Reform without the help of Republicans, or rather, despite Republican opposition.
While a more detailed examination of the bill that passed its first major hurdle  in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will be forthcoming here, it seems to be worth the time to examine Harkin’s statement as it strikes as a bellweather for our nation’s future.
This is more than a review of the strictly partisan victory Democrats have achieved in Congress, with the 60 votes needed in the Senate to defeat most Republican efforts at stopping or at least slowing actions by Democrats that might normally be nuanced with even the threat of filibuster. It is about even more than the arrogance of those who hold sway in the Federal Legislature, Administration and perhaps in the next few years, the Judiciary.
It’s about why a bi-partisan effort is sometimes, perhaps often, critical for real success.
Understanding this concept is essential to good government. Failing to understand it is what leads to the chaos we currently think of as government.
Neither of the major parties has a corner on the truth, on doing right, or even a real mandate. Republicans did not have it in the early 90’s, President Bush did not have it even after 9/11. And Democrats do not have it in Congress or the Oval Office right now.
What they have is power.
Holding the keys to what amounts to the ultimate power of the nation, with an almost unstoppable ability to exercise it in whatever seems right to those who hold it, is a precarious job. Precarious because it only takes 2 years to lose that power. And one party cannot hold it forever.
The real problem is this: even the greatest most valuable legislation ever conceived, if pushed against the will of the minority party, will be lost in the long run. Because the party in the minority, once they return to power, will tear it apart or repeal it. With the full support of the public at large. And something that could have been truly good and sustainable will be lost, and become a hotbed for continued wrangling and redesign for purely partisan reasons, until it is a minuscule shadow of what was original intended. This is failure.
Universal Health Care , that is, Health Care paid for (and likely) directed by the government, is not just a bad idea, but it is most likely the final nail in the coffin of capitalism. And most Americans are not really interested in this approach. Thankfully, the current legislation up for debate is not that extreme.
Most Americans would agree, however, that there is some need for reform in the Health Care System. There are abuses, there is waste, there are people who do not get the treatment they need. Some people cannot get any kind of health insurance. And current legal protections for inventors of new drugs and other treatments cause the cost of anything new and in demand to be exorbitant until the initial patent expires.
Some changes are definitely in order, but what’s important here is to realize that as a whole, people want to see some improvement in the situation. And that we are not really in a situation that is any worse that it was 20, 40, or 60 years ago. Indeed, the current system is far superior to what it has been at any time in the past. But, as with anything else, we are not happy with what we have. We can do better. Making things better, that is a common theme in America.
If Democrats really want to make a difference that they can be remembered for, a sustainable program that provides improvements in areas that are truly problematic, within the government’s purview to regulate, and that by correcting will truly improve the quality of life for Americans without adding to the already crushing debt load we have today, they can only do that if they partner with Republicans to ensure that subsequent Republican controlled Congresses will support, maintain and continue to fund these programs. It cannot be about just the here and now… it has to be about the future.
The bottom line is, neither Democrats nor Republicans should ever plan to legislate severely against the opposition party without expecting to lose whatever ground they think they’ve gained in subsequent years. As unsavory as that might seem for those who believe in absolute truth (as I do), this is a fact of life in a government like our. And for those who are overwhelmed with the succulent rhapsody of joy found in holding absolute power, remember it is fleeting.
We’ve often offered up here at The Conservative Reader that long-term thinking is one of the hallmarks of Conservatism. Thinking clearly and identifying unintended consequences helps ensure a robust and enduring future for our children. It is sad to say that both parties have shown an inability to think beyond today in recent years.
I hope that this can be a time for both to change and work toward a brighter, stabler future for America. We really need it.