When I was much younger, it was customary to call any failure a “learning experience” as if that phrase would ease the disappointment.
The enactment of the health care reform legislation should have been a learning experience for the Republican leadership.
The president campaigned on the promise of health care reforms that would be extensive and far reaching. There was no hidden agenda, no secrets about Barack Obama’s intentions. When the proposals worked their way through the legislature, the Republicans and their supporters and financers had a choice. They could participate in the process and have a bi-partisan law as a result, one that would have been strengthened by that participation. The GOP decided to merely object to any reforms, to forgo any participation and, in fact, gave up the opportunity to have their supporters’ views represented.
It was a remarkably stupid and cynical move, betting their short term electoral chances on the President’s failure and, in fact, the country’s failure. The health care bill has immediate and visible benefits, including the prohibition of insurance refusal based on pre-existing conditions, the allowing children to remain on their parents’ policy for an extended period, and immediate tax cuts for small businesses. The parts of the program that could be perceived as unfavorable or unpopular would not kick in for several years. Republican participation could have made the Bill better. Moreover, Republican participation could have been helpful to GOP’s corporate financial recourses.
Now two additional administration proposals are about to begin the legislative process; the first, addressing the need for financial reforms in order that the collapse at the end of the Bush (43) era not be repeated. In a series of three essays written last year, I explored the reasons and extent of the economic collapse and suggested that politicians of both parties were willing to sell the nation’s future (and perhaps their souls) for the campaign monies that came their way from Wall Street. I also suggested legislation that might ensure that such disasters not be repeated. For those who might be interested, citations to those articles are noted below.
The Obama administration is proposing a far reaching and comprehensive set of reforms so that a future financial collapse can be averted. There are financial gurus, from the Left, who assert that the proposed legislation does not go far enough but, at the very least, it’s a move in the right direction. The GOP leadership has taken the position that it will not participate in the reform efforts. John McCain asserted that his party will not cooperate with the political party that Americans had chosen, although he later moderated his statement if not the basic philosophy. Such a move would have two consequences, both harmful to Republicans. First, it would create a backlash against the GOP. Robert Creamer, writing in The Huffington Post, explains:
The big question in Washington this week is whether the Republican leadership will be stupid enough to filibuster the Senate bill to hold big Wall Street banks accountable.
There are very few things the Republicans could do that would help the Democrats more in their quest to maintain large majorities in the House and Senate. Please Lord…let the Republicans be incompetent enough to filibuster this bill.
When it comes to this issue, Democrats occupy all of the political high ground. Normal Americans — including much of the Republican rank and file — detest the big Wall Street banks, since their recklessness caused the collapse of the economy and cost eight million Americans their jobs.
The second consequence would be to cause big financial contributors to GOP coffers to wonder why they make those contributions. If Republicans follow the tack taken in connection with health care reform, they forfeit any opportunity to add provisions that would be favorable to their supporters. Why, the donors might reasonably ask, should we give millions to support legislators who fail to urge our interests?
The other administration proposal is related to climate change and the effects on the economy and the environment. In this area, the GOP has been effective in framing the issues in a way that excites the conservative base. The consensus of scientific opinion, however, is consistent with the warming of the planet and that that warming is caused in no small measure by human activity.
Again, Republicans promise to obstruct, to filibuster, to continue to be the “party of No”. Several weeks ago at a Southern Republic Leadership Conference, Texas Governor Rick Perry was clear: Republican congressional candidates must say “no” – no to President Barack Obama, and no to anything that makes Washington relevant to the American people. “It’s going to take men and women going to Washington, D.C., and saying no.” What should GOP tell voters? “Elect me and I’m going to Washington, D.C, and will try to make it as inconsequential on your life as I can make it.”
There will be the same donor backlash. If Republicans refuse to participate in a rational and meaningful way, they forfeit any opportunity to promote the interests of their biggest corporate sponsors and benefactors. At some point, these interests will have to wonder why they should support a Party that is more interested in stirring its base than in representing its financial supporters.
The position that the Obama administration is socialistic is wearing thin. Most Americans, when reminded that Medicare and Social Security are government-run programs, realize that the “socialism” charge is meaningless and untrue. Most Americans recognize that large banks, financial investment houses and insurance companies have to be regulated by the government.
Has the GOP learned anything? Will it join the process? I doubt it and, while it is good news for the Democrats, it is probably bad news to the country.