The sight of pundits yucking it up about the “Democratic circular firing squad” have become as tedious and threadbare as those counseling “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Both of these admonitions have at their heart the notion that “liberals” are being irrational, unreasonable and rigid in refusing to accept the Senate health care bill.
But in the very next breath, they will then promote statistics that say the tea parties are more popular than either the Democratic or the Republican party, and wonder if it’s an opportune time for a third party candidate. (From the “right,” of course, because who would take the “left” seriously.) At no time do the synapses firing in their brains make the connection that both the “lazy progressive bloggers” and the tea party activists are saying almost the exact same thing about the Senate bill.
There are two aspects to political problems – being able to identify a problem and knowing how to fix it. Most people are really good at the first part, but it’s the second part that matters far more.
Imagine you have an old car that you need to fix up. It needs a new transmission, new brakes, a new alternator, new upholstery, and new tires. The mechanic tells you that you only have enough money to fix the transmission right now. You know the mechanic is dicking you around, driving up the price and making it seem far more difficult to fix the car than it really is, but you just don’t have the tools or the knowledge to do it yourself. It sucks. All you want is to drive it again. Your crazy neighbor, however, thinks that you can just tape some cardboard wings on each door and the magical unicorns in the sky will make the car drive. That same crazy neighbor may tell you that just fixing the transmission isn’t enough to fix the car, and he’ll be exactly right, but you’re still better off working with the mechanic to fix the car.
This is the dilemma that we’re facing right now. The tea party activists may be able to identify problems with our health care system – and some may even echo our own sentiments about the shared power between government and big business – but their prescriptions for fixing it far too often live in the realm of fantasy. They continue to advocate for less regulation of what insurers and drug companies can and can’t do when every other health care system in the world that’s more organized, efficient, and cost-effective has more robust regulation than ours has. This bill is far from perfect, but it’s not bad enough that we have to join ranks with the crazies and pray for the magical unicorns to save the day.