Universal Healthcare and the Blogosphere

UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE AND THE BLOGOSPHERE….I thought I had gotten this out of my system over the weekend, but I guess I didn’t. I’m talking about the DLC’s feeble and ridiculous 7-point plan to “move our health care system in the right direction.” I read it on Friday and it had me fuming.

Look, I’m a pragmatic kind of guy. I’m so pragmatic that I even halfheartedly supported the Medicare prescription drug plan, which Bruce Bartlett, with some justice, calls “the worst legislation in history.” But bad as it is, I figure it did one critical thing: it established the principle that Medicare should be responsible for providing access to prescription drugs. And it’s a lot easier to fix a bad bill in the future than it is to get it passed in the first place.

That’s how pragmatic I am. But I swear, the DLC’s healthcare laundry list is the kind of thing that convinces me the DLC is trying to give pragmatism a bad name. Let’s count the ways.

First off, it’s hopelessly wonkish and unfocused. It’s a 7-point plan, for God’s sake. The worst aspect of Hillarycare was that it was so complex it scared people, and this plan learns nothing from that.

Second, it has no chance of becoming law. The big argument against fighting for universal healthcare is that it’s politically infeasible, but the DLC’s plan is dead on arrival too. What’s the point of compromising if the compromise itself is just as big a nonstarter as the original goal?

And finally, it’s far too timid about at least acknowledging that our eventual goal should be a full-fledged, single-payer national healthcare system. This means that it forfeits any chance of making a clear and easily understood statement about what the Democratic Party stands for. Instead it’s just mush.

This last point is the most important one. Abortion opponents happily endorse incremental abortion restrictions all over the country, but there’s never any doubt that a full-blown ban is their actual goal. Democrats, conversely, are still shell shocked over the events of 1994. That’s understandable, but 1994 was over a decade ago. It’s time to get back into the saddle.

Let me be clear: I don’t underestimate the political difficulty of getting universal healthcare enacted. I don’t underestimate how long it will take. But if there’s anything the Democratic Party ought to be united on, it’s the principle of loudly and enthusiastically endorsing universal healthcare as a goal.

So how about it, blogosphere? It’s great that we endorse good candidates and help get them funding, but how about also making a difference in the policy arena and insisting that candidates publicly endorse universal healthcare if they want our help in the future? After all, not only is it a big, meaty, progressive goal, but it’s one that we all agree on, not one that we fight over. We don’t have to pick any particular plan, and we shouldn’t expect anyone to commit electoral suicide over it. But we should at least insist that anyone who wants our help has to support simple, genuine, full-blown universal healthcare as a goal ? and that they do it publicly. That’s how Grover Norquist turned the Republican Party into the “Tax Cuts Forever” Party, and it worked pretty well.

The reason that universal healthcare has failed in the past has been fear: fear of rationing, fear of lines, fear of bureaucracy. To win, we have to overcome that fear, and that’s a public opinion campaign that will take years. The blogosphere can help by writing about what national healthcare systems in other countries are really like, and we can also help by insisting that candidates who want our support get on board the bandwagon. How about it?