As we near the climax of the health care debate, there's a big question hovering in the air: Can Democrats govern? I thought you might be interested in my article in today's Politico, which argues that membership in a political party sometimes means being willing to take one for the team. Your comments/reactions are most welcome.
by Will Marshall
Forget about reconciliation and other parliamentary maneuvers. Forget, too, about Cadillac plans and the Cornhusker Kickback. On health care, we're down to the heart of the matter: Can Democrats act like a disciplined, cohesive political party?
For decades, they've fought for the principle of universal and affordable health coverage. If they don't pass health reform now, with medical costs mounting, with a president willing to go for broke and with sizable - and perishable - majorities in Congress, you have to wonder if they ever will.
There will be no shortage of excuses if they fail: a populist backlash against bailouts and joblessness; GOP obstructionism and rising public antipathy for Washington and Big Government in general.
But let's face it: If health care reform crashes and burns, it will be because Democrats couldn't summon the courage and internal coherence to deliver on a key progressive commitment.
Labor unions, Blue Dogs, single-payer stalwarts, favor-extorting moderates, Latinos, anti-abortion Roman Catholics - it's no use singling out one culprit, because all the party's tribes will have contributed to the debacle.
By holding firm for comprehensive reform, President Barack Obama has put his party, especially House Democrats, on the spot. He's asking doubters to put their party's collective interest above their personal interests and views.
That's a tough ask, especially for those from marginal districts who could lose their seats by voting for the Senate bill. It's easy for self-righteous lefties to brand them as trimmers or cowards, but swing-district Democrats can argue plausibly that a "no" vote would more accurately reflect majority sentiment among their constituents. Liberals from overwhelmingly Democratic districts have no such excuse.
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