Robert B. Reich, a co-founder of The American Prospect, is a Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley. His website can be found here and his blog can be found here.
The real political race for health care has just begun. The significance of the president's speech to Washington insiders was its signal about where the White House is placing its bets and its support. More on this in a moment. First, let's be clear about who's racing and why. Think of the speech as the starting gate of a two-month sprint between two competitors -- and they're not Democrats and Republicans.
I was just on the phone talking with a reporter for a national media outlet who referred to Sen. Olympia Snowe's idea for a public option "trigger" as the "centrist position." Whoa. When the mainstream media start naming something as "centrist" the game is almost over because just about everyone with any authority in our nation's capital wants to be at the "center."
With Congress returning from recess to consider health care legislation and the president set to deliver a major address on the subject to both houses of Congress tomorrow, a bit of history may be in order. An excellent starting place David Blumenthal's and James Marone's The Heart of Power, which I reviewed for The New York Times this past weekend. Here are the major points:
What we learned in August is something we've long known but keep forgetting: The most important difference between America's Democratic left and Republican right is that the left has ideas and the right has discipline. Obama and progressive supporters of health care were outmaneuvered in August -- not because the right had any better idea for solving the health-care mess but because the right's attack on the Democrats' idea was far more disciplined than was the Democrats' ability to sell it.