Let me get this straight: For 60 years, since Harry Truman, liberal Democrats have supported a national health insurance system — so that the health of individual Americans and families would not be a function of wealth.
Now, in December 2009, we Democrats have a progressive president and substantial majorities in both houses of Congress and finally have a chance to get to 60 votes, and perhaps more, in the Senate with legislation that would:
1) Guarantee access to private insurance policies for virtually every American (at least, well above 90 percent), including providing tax subsidies to about 30 million people who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to be able to afford to purchase health insurance.
2) By virtually requiring everyone to “pay or play” — thus broadening the base of the insurance pool to include the young and healthy as well as the old and infirm — require every insurance company to provide health insurance coverage, regardless of the health or status of the applicant, regardless of pre-existing condition, regardless of a chronic disease, and regardless of age or infirmity.
3) Provide a transparent state-regulated public marketplace, where insurance companies would have to sell their insurance and allow consumers to compare prices and encourage competing companies to sharpen their pencils in order to increase their sales.
4) Do all of this and still reduce the deficit after 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
And yet, people who call themselves liberals or progressives are calling for the bill to be defeated, for President Barack Obama to be opposed?
Is there anyone among them who is uninsured who would oppose this bill? People who depend on public hospital emergency rooms for healthcare when one of their children is sick? People who are unemployed with a pre-existing condition, who lost insurance and can’t get any company to cover their families? People who are scared to death that, without health insurance, they are one serious illness away, for themselves or their families, from bankruptcy and ruin?
I doubt it.
President Obama and his brilliant and politically savvy chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, began at the beginning with the following simple strategy: Let’s get the fundamentals passed — and the above four components are clearly the fundamentals. Let’s try for more, including a broad public option, and push the edge of the envelope to get it all.
We see the hateful, suicidal impulses of the Democratic hard left in the scapegoating of Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut. First we have vicious personal attacks on him when he expressed doubts about the new idea of a Medicare buy-in for those ages 55-64 — and hypocritical silence when, a few days later, numerous liberal Democratic senators, such as Wisconsin’s Russ Feingold, Minnesota’s Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, and Vermont’s Patrick Leahy, express concerns about the proposal and its failure to provide for adequate reimbursement rates.
Then we hear from the notorious Jane Hamsher — the same Hamsher who used the universally condemned racist “blackface” photo of Lieberman on her blog in 2006 when she was opposing his re-election — we hear Hamsher demanding that Lieberman’s wife, Hadassah, be fired from her position as global ambassador for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure breast cancer charity.
The reason: Because Hamsher accused her of being a lobbyist who had worked for the pharmaceutical industry in years past. (Not that facts matter to Hamsher, but Mrs. Lieberman has never been a lobbyist. She worked for pharmaceutical companies years ago, companies that produce products that save people’s lives, and only someone who thinks like Joe McCarthy would deem it appropriate to attack Mrs. Lieberman — even if both were true.)
It’s time for mainstream liberal Democrats to join with the party’s moderates and the great center of America — the center-left that elected Obama president and to which he has appealed consistently as president — in support of the current national health insurance bill with these four components that can win 60 votes in the Senate.
And it’s time for the party’s mainstream to call out the hateful left — and affirm the values of liberalism, not the philosophy that “the good is the enemy of the perfect” and the demonization and impugning of the motives of those fellow Democrats with whom there are honest differences.
Lanny Davis, a Washington, D.C., attorney, is a former special counsel to President Clinton (1996-98) and a member of President Bush's Privacy and Civil Liberties Board (2005-06). He is the author of "Scandal: How 'Gotcha' Politics Is Destroying America."
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