Late Night: How Obama Should Change the Bipartisanship Game
So, I didn’t get a chance to watch yesterday’s healthcare reform talkfest, but it seems as though things went largely as expected: Republicans postured and gave excuses, the president pretended to listen, and today the White House is announcing its intentions to proceed as soon as next week with a plan that will likely garner only Democratic votes.
As David Dayen wrote just a little earlier this afternoon, “Those media members who actually paid attention to the substance of the arguments and not the ‘optics’ saw pretty plainly that Republicans aren’t interested in fixing the health care crisis.”
You and I already knew this, of course. But then, as I noted (along with Jon Walker and just about every other sentient observer in the universe), that was the point of having the televised summit — to make clear to people on the lower rungs of the information ladder why a “bipartisan” approach to solving the healthcare problem is impossible.
Those of us watching from a closer distance just wish the Democrats were better at it, that’s all. But some of the news tidbits surrounding the summit suggest they might be learning a little bit. An article in Politico quoted Rep. Rob Andrews as identifying a crack in the GOP front that should be exploited:
“Look at the difference between Tom Coburn and Mitch McConnell,” Andrews said.
Coburn offered a number of ideas that Democrats could incorporate into their bill, like preventing fraud in Medicare, while McConnell read poll numbers.
If, like some, you wondered why Obama, Pelosi, and other Democrats wasted time praising a generally reprehensible Republican like Coburn, it’s because he stepped into the trap — as long as the debate is about how to solve the problem, the progressive side (which actually cares about solving it) holds the advantage. And when even one Republican joins the debate on those terms, the pretense of his colleagues is easier to expose.
A braver, more assertive Democratic party could easily push further in this rhetorical direction. Rather than compromising almost instinctively every time the GOP spouts a faux-populist talking point, President Obama could state clearly that he’s completely open to Republican ideas for solving problems — but that doesn’t mean he has to give the time of day to flimsy excuses, made-up controversies, and the other distractions that make up the right’s preferred fodder for public discourse.
Who knows? Maybe if Obama made the Republicans pay more of a price for engaging in such BS, they might be slightly less inclined to pursue it.
I mean, it’s not like, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way” is such a hard philosophy for even low-information voters to grasp.