Andrew Sullivan Argues That We Still Can

Andrew Sullivan responded to a letter from a reader who feels the frustration many of us feel regarding how a small number of Senators can block reform. The reader argues that Obama cannot change the system and he says he is done. Sullivan  begs him not to give up:

We supported Obama precisely because he was trying to combat this system, to attempt governance that was not hostage to news-cycle Rovian politics. And this he has tried to do, operating within a system that is the one we have, in a climate that the last four decades has created. He has achieved, despite the carping on the left and rage on the right, many good things. Health insurance reform is one of the toughest. And the more I have studied this subject, the more sensible the Senate bill actually appears – given the exigencies of the system and the economic distress of the moment.

I don’t think ramming the Senate bill through the House and trying to get through reconciliation will work. I do think Obama has a golden opportunity at his SOTU to do what he did last September, and patiently explain why some reform is necessary, that he is open to constructive criticism, but that he was elected to get difficult things done. What he needs to do politically is expose the vacuity of the opposition, by hanging back a little and letting their politics of no and never sink in. If he can credibly explain how he will bring the budget back to balance, and how healthcare reform is actually partly a means to do this, he can regain the initiative.

This is the GOP’s high water-mark. They have abdicated any responsibility to tackle the problems we all acknowledge, while indulging in extremist rhetoric. They live for the spin and the rage. So this is the moment they have been waiting for. Most Americans don’t think this way. They are legitimately worried that health reform is too costly right now. They’re wrong if we find the will in the coming years to ensure that the Medicare cuts are real and the cost controls are followed up. And we need to do our part in persuading them.

This is not over. In some ways, it is only just beginning.

Which is why Obama needs us breathing down his neck, and galvanizing support for necessary reform – now, more than in the campaign. If we give up, we will be copying the hysteria and nihilism of the right. Do not give up. Focus. Argue. Mobilize.

Yes. We. Can.

Sullivan is right that Obama must sell the country on any plan before it is passed. Obama might not be able to succeed but this is what he needs to try to do. We cannot expect any good results if we try to ram through a bill which is both flawed and unpopular as many liberals are demanding. This no longer even appears to be an option with Nancy Pelosi stating she does not have the votes to pass the Senate plan.

Obama should have stuck to his initial instincts from the start and stayed away from any plan with mandates. There are plenty of other ways around the free rider problem. If we are to get past the right wing noise machine which blocks legislation by distorting it, health reform needs to be sold in smaller bits and pieces which people can understand. It is okay if we do not get everything at once if we are making progress, but a mandate makes partial reform which forces everyone to purchase private insurance with no guarantee of affordability unpalatable to far too many voters.

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  1. 1
    Leslie Parsley says:

    His is like a voice in the wilderness. A couple of us “oldies” have observed that most of the ones so quick to jump off the boat are people too young to really understand the game of politics. But still, it gets discouraging.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I think that I’m less discouraged as compared to many younger bloggers because my expectations were far lower (and more realistic).

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