For a moment, forget all the technicalities that have surrounded the healthcare reform debate. Forget public option this, ballooning federal deficit that. Forget every conspiracy theory your TV set has spat out at you. Forget everything, I mean everything … but these two: American greed and politics.
Healthcare is the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States. Not because the nation is the most efficient in providing wholesome care to her citizens; on the contrary, she ranks at the bottom among industrialized states in efficient healthcare systems. More families and individuals are rendered homeless and sent packing for shelters by debilitating healthcare bills than anything else. So, that Mr. Obama has decided to saddle this beast that kills as much as it saves, is a very noble thing.
But that’s about where nobility ends. Every Democratic president, with the exception of Johnson, has tried to ride this savage beast one way or the other with no recordable success. Now dealing with a stalemate in Congress, President Obama is living in real time a nightmare as vivid as that of 16 years ago, one to which President Clinton can attest when he tried this beast on for size.
Like I mentioned, the president has done a noble thing. He has brought this issue out of the dungeons of darkness and recruited bipartisan support in taming the monster. It is the stuff gentlemen are made of; you reach across the divide and try as much as possible to engage the opposition. You use diplomacy, you invite everyone to the table, give every man a say. It’s the democratic way in which civilized governments are run, right?
Yes and no. Simply for this reason – governments by their very nature are not a gentleman’s club. Politics and greed, the driving elements behind governments, all seek to maintain or attain one principal thing – power. And by what we know of power, men consolidate it—men rarely give it up without requirement or necessity. Therefore, to the extent that Mr. Obama persists in his gentlemanly ways in fighting for healthcare reform, he is bringing a handshake to a gun fight when he should be carrying a bazooka.
Republicans in Congress, guided by instinctual need for survival and self-preservation, have no incentive, none whatsoever, to hand a landmark, age-old, legislative victory to a Democratic president. Especially not while they are overwhelmingly outnumbered in both houses. Who could blame them? I definitely cannot. It’s not as if their health insurance is about to be shaved or denied. I think it is safe to say Republicans are the sole descendants of Darwin in America, they understand something about the strong surviving and the weak dying off.
Pharmaceutical, insurance, and other healthcare-related entities share the same primordial instincts as their Republican cousins. In an America dominated by the bottom line, where the daily stock market index determines the daily level of happiness or whether to commit suicide, where we’ve seen obscene rise in income disparity over the last 30 years; tell me, why should any of these big businesses roll over and play dead because some president wants to save some hapless bum on the street?
Sheer will is what gets agendas into black and white in Washington, DC. And for this, Mr. Obama needs not look further than his predecessor, President W. Bush, to see how things get done. You can blame the former president all you want (and he could be very well guilty of many things), but one thing that can’t be said about him is that he never got his priorities into laws.
It is with this same ruthlessness Mr. Obama must confront the healthcare debate. He has tried diplomacy, and diplomacy has gotten diplomatic results. With a majority in both houses of Congress, there’s no tomorrow for the president. It’s right now or his presidency suffers a case of infanticide with all ten fingers pointing to no one but himself.
Failure to pass a healthcare overhaul this year will cast Mr. Obama as an incompetent Head-of-State. With a majority in both houses, what excuse would he tender future generations? His children’s children aside, what happens to now? What happens to his stature with Republicans who single-handedly stonewalled him with a measly minority and tactics from the Dark Ages?
It in effect sets a precedent for a young presidency. It renders his remaining years lame-duck. Especially, if you factor in the high possibility that Democrats may at any point during any of those years lose the majority in either house. If he doesn’t win this battle, there will be no other battles to fight – not energy, not education.
President Obama has chosen his stakes with healthcare reform. And for his sake and everything he holds dear, he better handle his business. Otherwise, I’m afraid, he suffers the very same fate as that which he’s trying to save.