The Surrender Of The Democrats?

After the election of Scott Brown, there was the possibility that the House could pass the Senate bill as is and send it to the president to be signed, resulting in flawed but still the most far-reaching reforms to our health care system in generations, ensuring that 31 million Americans would have access to health care.

But we are talking about the Democratic Party here. So they did what Democratic politicians do: curl up in a fetal position.

A while ago, Ezra Klein wrote that Joe Lieberman's shifting, incoherent opposition to the public option and medicare buy-in might have catastrophic life-and-death consequences for real human beings:

So far, none of Lieberman's defenders have argued that stopping an exchange-limited Medicare buy-in for people between 55 and 64 is more important than 150,000 lives, or even than one life. How they reconcile that with his willingness to doom the bill over that issue and make passage much harder by killing a tenuous compromise amidst an uncertain legislative environment is not for me to say.

Well, we now have a Democratic Caucus that is perfectly willing to put those lives on the line based on their own job security, and I'm not hearing enough of these kinds of stark condemnations from liberals. It's not like those lives have stopped being at stake now that Lieberman is no longer standing in the way.

The fact is it is the job of elected officials to pass legislation, not to get re-elected. The Democrats are waving a white flag three feet from the finish line in the hopes that they might keep their seats. It's one thing for Republicans to oppose it -- many genuinely believe it will do more harm than good. But Democrats know how many people this bill will help, and they are now refusing to pass it out of a misguided sense of self-preservation. This is an unconscionable act of selfish political cowardice -- it's disgusting, and it won't help them one bit when the base stays home in November because Democrats are too scared to legislate even when they have the largest Senate majority since the 1970s. Greg Sargent says there's still a chance the Democrats could get it together and pass the bill -- but if they don't, they shouldn't expect Democratic donors or voters to turn out come election time.

Quite frankly, there's nothing for any Democrat to vote for. What exactly is the pitch? Dems are going to tell their voters about all the things they would do if the Republicans weren't such meanies? The conclusion any Democratic voter has to come to is that Democratic politicians don't actually have principles they're willing to stand up for -- rather they're people who have adopted policy positions out of convenience and will abandon them at the first sign of political hardship. As I've said before, it's not that the Democrats in Congress seem to lack the courage of their convictions; it's that they appear to lack both courage and convictions.

It's no surprise that Republicans seem to think that al-Qaeda can be defeated by saying lots of mean things about them -- it certainly works against their domestic political opponents.


-- A. Serwer

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