Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Voting for Courage

Courage! Courage! That's what Democrats most need now! Or so Nancy Pelosi tells us:
“Our members, every one of them, wants health care,” Ms. Pelosi said. “They know that this will take courage. It took courage to pass Social Security. It took courage to pass Medicare. And many of the same forces that were at work decades ago are at work again against this bill.”
There is perhaps some irony in Speaker Pelosi's appeal to Medicare when one considers that a centerpiece of many Democratic proposals on health-care has been cutting Medicare, but let's leave that to the side for the moment.

In terms of political and bipartisan support, Medicare and Social Security are on a different plane from Obamacare. Social Security passed the House 372-33 and the Senate 77-6 in 1935. Medicare passed the House 313-115 and the Senate 68-21. In both cases, overwhelming (and overwhelmingly bipartisan) majorities passed significant changes in the American architecture of power.

You see, FDR and LBJ (along with members of Congress) had this crazy idea: go out convince voters and politicians to support a bill. And you know what? They did! Medicare was hugely popular, while Obamacare remains hugely unpopular.

Democrats in the House and Senate could create a moderate, focused bill that could probably rack up big majorities, but, so far, Congressional leadership and the president have chosen not to. Now putting forward a moderate sensible bill, in this political climate---that would be an act of real courage.

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