The Seattle Times editorial board argues today that bipartisanship is needed on healthcare reform, and I don’t necessarily disagree that bipartisanship would be the preferable course of action… that is, depending on what one means by bipartisanship.
If by bipartisanship one means representatives and senators from both parties working together with the genuine interest of the American people at heart, well then, I suppose that would be a good thing. So too would world peace. But if we mean bipartisanship in the way it was understood during the eight years of the Bush administration—essentially, the D’s caving and voting with the R’s—well then, fuck that.
Now, I don’t expect the opposite, but the truth is, elections matter. Just this past November voters gave the Democrats control of the House and the Senate and the White House, and by comfortable margins. So while serious Republicans deserve a seat at the table, they have to understand that the broad outlines of this healthcare reform plan will be shaped by the D’s, not the R’s. And any such plan without a robust public option is simply unacceptable.
If reasonable R’s and blue dog D’s want to use what leverage they have to help shape the details so that the public option really is just an option, and that it doesn’t duplicate some of the same problems that already exist in Medicare and Medicaid, then have at it. But if Republicans draw the line and say they will not support any plan that includes a public option, then bipartisanship is simply out of the question. They lost the last election, and they simply don’t have the right to expect such demands to be met.
After all, the whole purpose of healthcare reform is to actually reform healthcare, not just to claim you have.
President Obama has already proven himself more than willing to bend over backwards in the service of bipartisanship, more so than he should be, and the Republicans have yet to reciprocate in kind. Instead, they seem to be counting on their obstructionism as a winning political strategy for 2010 and beyond.
So while I don’t blame the Times’ editors for demanding bipartisanship—it’s totally consistent with their rhetorical ethos—I find it silly to demand it in such a bipartisan fashion. For if we’re to have true bipartisanship in shaping healthcare reform, it is in the end, up to the Republicans to unilaterally embrace what would be for them, a complete reversal in their approach to the issue thus far.