Schrödinger's Health Care Reform
It's not a binary world. Being disappointed in, even angry at, President Obama does not translate into preferring a Republican. Being better than John McCain would have been is no great feat. Being better than Bush is about as difficult as being conscious.
I don't know what's going to happen, with health care. None of us do. That's reality. We do know that the president has said, repeatedly, that he wants a public option. We do know that he has not drawn a line in the sand over the public option. We do know that some White House insiders have hinted that there is no line in the sand over the public option. We do know that the president has let Congress take the lead in crafting health care legislation. Almost everything else is guesswork.
Some are certain the president will accept anything, no matter how compromised, just so he can claim to have passed health care reform. Some are certain that the president is very cleverly working behind the scenes, to appear bipartisan and above the fray, so the public option can emerge, as if on its own, as if by the wisdom of consensus, so a lot of politicians can claim part ownership of reform. The reality is that we don't know.
The reality is that some will criticize the president, no matter what he does. The reality is that some will defend him, no matter what he does. I think the entire Democratic leadership made a huge tactical error by not starting out with the goal of single payer. Had they done so, they would have been able to negotiate down to the public option. It would have been seen as the compromise that it is. Instead, by having made the public option the initial best case goal, they have been forced to negotiate down from it rather than to it. That's the reality.
The reality is that anything less than a robust public option is not robust health care reform. Triggers are not reform. Co-ops are not reform. Mandates without a robust public option are nothing but a gift to the insurance industry. Mandates without a robust public option are worse than the status quo.
Politically, it's been clear for some time how this would play out. The House likely will pass a public option. The Senate likely won't. Our best hope- perhaps our only hope- lies in reconciliation. Everything until then is an excruciatingly tedious valium ballet. When reconciliation comes, we have to hope that the House progressives will insist that without a public option, there will be no bill- period. We have to hope that, behind the scenes, the president will back them. We have to hope that, behind the scenes, the president won't go the other route, and pressure them to accept a watered down farce of a bill, so he can claim to have passed reform.
We don't know what the president will do, behind the scenes. We don't know what he is doing, now, behind the scenes. It's all speculation. There is no rational reason to be convinced of anything, at this point. That's the reality.