“Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.”
Please excuse me while I digress for a few paragraphs.
During my brief experiment with college, a friend and I invented a game we called Cribber. It started primarily as a combination of cribbage and poker (hence the name), but over the weeks we incorporated elements of chess and a then-popular drinking game called buzz as well as dice rolls, monopoly money and voodoo. By the end of my short tenure we may or may not have brought gunplay into the mix.
A few months later, the two of us and one other friend shared the rent for a place behind Dandee Donuts in Billings Montana. We tried to recreate the game but couldn’t settle on exactly how the play went or what the rules were. In fact, we had been so busy in our dorm rooms making the game fun that we never wrote down the rules. Not that it would have done any good because we changed them pretty much every time we played. Oh, and I forgot to mention we had an appeals process built in to allow real-time changes of the rules with a well-tuned argument or proper bribe.
Where I was going with this is that Cribber, a chaotic game cooked up in a college dorm room by herb-infused kids, still stands as the best example I can come up with to compare to the ever-changing and nonsensical game of politics.Note: the game’s co-creator reminded me that even the most raucous game of Cribber was never anywhere close to as viscous as politics.
In 2009 the Democrats had a good political cribber board position. In the final weeks of that year, they took advantage of that edge, along with a few good rolls of the dice and passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) AKA Obamacare. Maybe you are one to wax poetic about the ACA, maybe you prefer to whine about it. Either way, it was what the people wanted at the time. Well, it was what the Democrats thought the people wanted. I believe What the people really wanted was … something bigger.
Democrats didn’t cook up the idea of taking on health care reform. Our troubled health care system had been part of the national conversation well before the first House vote on Obama’s health care plan. The term Obama-care (hyphen included) first appeared in an article written by a lobbyist. That article was published about two months after then-President George W. Bush pushed his own version of health care reform in his January 2007 State of the Union Address.
Also In 2007, Filmmaker Michael Moore released the documentary Sicko which brought about real adult conversations regarding our broken broken health care system in the United States. Sicko took on the failings of the insurance industry but didn’t really address the plight of the millions of Americans for whom insurance was already out or reach.
Contrary to talking points, health insurance was not affordable for millions of Americans even a decade ago and more. In pitching his own health care plan, George Bush said his idea would help some of the 47 million uninsured people (more than 15 percent of the population at the time) buy coverage.
So, if health care reform was what the people wanted, why is Obamacare’s passage so often credited with causing the people to chase so many Democrats out of office in the 2010 midterms?
Yes, there were (are) a lot of lies told about the ACA. Democrats suffer from a recurring chronic inability to craft a functional message and so they weren’t able to effectively counter those lies. That certainly played a role, but, I believe the real reason was that, while the ACA was the most comprehensive reform of the health care system in decades, it wasn’t reformy enough. It was reformish at best.
Many people, mostly conservative ones, want you to believe that the bill was too progressive. Don’t buy that hogwash. The provisions of the legislation were taken in whole or in piecemeal from conservative ideas. Mitt Romney implemented an individual mandate as Governor of Massachusetts. George Bush pushed the idea of taxing high-end plans to help those who those who could not afford insurance.
And what about the argument that the big bad government shouldn’t have a part in health care. Never mind that the governments of all the other highly developed countries do take part – and, with a high degree of success, I might add. Even George Bush said “There is no question in my mind that a proper role for the federal government is to help the poor and the elderly and the diseased get health care,” I am certainly no fan of any of the Bush cartel, but G.W. was right, and in 2007 conservatives thought so too when they pushed the Democrats to go along Bush-care.
I believe the government has a vested national security interest in keeping its population healthy and out of medical bankruptcy court and I believe the Democrats should have pursed the whole debate in those terms because that puts it in a conservative frame.
Yes, I am aware of how close the vote was on this legislation and I am aware that even some of the Democrats in the house voted against it. I have not deluded myself into thinking that the Democrats could have tossed medicare for all or even a public option into the mix and easily passed the bill. It might well have failed, but I believe that failure would have put Democrats in a stronger position during the next Congress. I believed then that Democrats needed to go bigger, I still do.
The Democrats squandered the hand they were dealt in 2009, choosing incremental change instead of attempting broad and truly progressive leaps when they had the chance. Republicans bluffed – as they do – and it paid off for them, for a while.The election of 2016 put the Republicans in a position where they finally had to show their cards. Turned out they were holding a lone joker and calling it an ace. Let’s hope the Democrats learned from that round of Cribber.
In 2009 Democrats were in a good position, but I believe they are in a better position now. In 2009 the people expected them to get things done Now we realize that aside from actually holding investigations there is little they can do. I just hope they realize the power that gives them. No matter how much Democrats water down the whiskey it won’t get past the Senate Republicans, so why water it at all?
House Democrats need to introduce and pass big sweeping legislation on health care, campaign finance, immigration, voters rights, justice system reform, livable wage. marijuana legalization and more. Yes, the truth is these bills are not likely to even get a hearing in the Senate, and that is precisely the point. People are disgusted with both parties because they can’t, or won’t deliver on the big campaign promises to make life better for middle America. The Democrats need to show us that they are listening and they get it. When the Republicans refuse to take up the cause, that also shows us what we need to know.
I really hope the Democrats get the message but I am not hopeful.
image courtesy Pixabay user ToNic-Pics