I can’t bring myself to read David Brooks’s latest, which is headlined “Liberal Suicide March.” You can read it if you want to. I just want to link to some of the commentary inspired by the column.
Marc Ambinder writes a genuinely excellent post in which he notes that real reform is hard.
Selling expensive health care reform that doesn’t immediately benefit everyone, that threatens to disrupt the system (flawed as it is to many people) as Americans with insurance know it, that adds coverage for people who don’t have it, that potentially saddles the government with more debt, that requires sacrifice from people who might not derive tangible benefits from it — well, this is the stuff that one spends political capital on because it is the hardest type of lawmaking to do. It requires an extensive leap of moral imagination — a moral argument that the system, as it is, may not be hurting you, but it is hurting your neighbor and will eventually hurt you if it’s not fixed.
When you’re dealing with something as complex as the health care system, truly, there are no quick and easy fixes. Whatever is done will be messy and glitchy and cause some people some inconvenience. Conservatives like to point to the potential messiness as a reason not to act, ignoring the mess-o-rama that is the current system. Conservatives also like “magic bullet” solutions — let’s just enact tort reform, or let’s just deregulate the insurance industry, and the problem will fix itself, they say. They can’t understand why progressives cannot appreciate the simplicity and elegance of their solutions.
Democrats don’t do fear — certainly not among themselves — and the principal result of this is that the ideas that are tough sells never emerge with the sheer authority that comes from unity. When a Ronald Reagan or Bush and Cheney ride into town, whatever cockamamie notion emerges from the White House instantly becomes the New Paradigm, the New Normal, not just in the GOP but in the media and the public, all because most Republicans are afraid to break ranks. Invade Iraq? Build a huge sci-fi shield against Russian missiles? Give huge tax breaks to rich people? Sounds … er, reasonable, I guess. There certainly seemed to be a consensus that these ideas were normal.
The possibility exists that the public would still think invading Iraq was reasonable if the management of the war hadn’t been so abysmal. The public certainly still thinks that the radical reordering of the economic order begun under Reagan was reasonable. That’s what fear wins you — a sense that your ideas must make sense because so few people are willing to say they don’t.