Saturday, January 8, 2011

Against the will of the people

Conservatives have made a dangerous argument against Health care reform. That it was passed against the will of the American people. And that "fact" in and of itself is bad.

Leaving aside that most of the provisions of the new law are popular:

guaranteed insurance for people with pre-existing conditions
children allowed to stay on parents' insurance until age 26
help for seniors to pay prescription bills
tax breaks for small businesses that provide health insurance for workers
no lifetime caps on benefits

The overall package is unpopular for complex reasons:

Republicans chose to demagogue the whole plan for political gain
Some parts require sacrifice like the health care mandate, higher taxes, and medicare cuts

and ironically,

many left leaning voters oppose the plan because it is not liberal enough.

All of that grouped together adds up to a health care plan passed against the will of the people.
Fair enough.

But the dangerous notion that this argument should carry the day is contrary to the foundations of our nation being a republic and not a democracy. Once we elect representatives who will study the issues better than the average person, in many cases be privvy to information not generally known, and on balance are more intelligent than the general voters, we often have to bow to their judgement on critical issues. If not, then our system can't work. It would allow opponents the freedom to say and do anything to undermine the popularity of any legislation and doom it.

That's what we had in this case. With the Republicans making inconsistent arguments that if taken together make no sense. They attacked the plan from the left by decrying Medicare cuts. They attacked the plan from the right by talking about a government takeover. They attacked the plan from the left by talking about "death panels" (which would deny necessary care to save money for government). They attacked from the right because the plan costs too much. They attacked from the center by saying the plan wasn't bipartisan (because none of them agreed to work on it!).

Leadership means at some point you have to do what's right and accept negative consequences. In reality, this can't be done on every or even most issues. Our politics won't allow for it. But on the really big ones, it is a necessary cost of being an elected politicians. But this may change if Republicans and Democrats in the future raise "the will of the people" as defined by polls, emails, townhalls, etc. to a religious level of importance.

Republicans, I think realize you can't run government the polls. Just from the Iraq War recently, they know polls can and will change; often times without substantial reasons. The American people wanted out of Iraq after the 2006 elections, yet President Bush offered a "surge" which intensifed the commitment. We have to accept that the President knows more about Iraq than we do. That we shouldn't have went into Iraq was why you should have voted for Al Gore rather than George W. Bush in 2000. After that, we have to live with his decisions.

I implore all sides to make poltiical cases they can live with under all circumstances, for the good of the country.

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