Monday, March 22, 2010

Making Sausage

Being an old country boy from the hills of Arkansas, I know a lot about making sausage. I’ve made some this year at home. It is messy and requires a lot of preparation, but the end result—fresh, tasty home-made sausage—is worth it.
Last night I watched the Democrats finally stand (almost) united and pass health care. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, or a perfect bill. It is a compromise that is a lot better than the status quo. It doesn’t achieve universal coverage. It doesn’t do a lot of things I wanted to see in a health care reform bill, but it is a vast improvement over the preset system of allowing the insurance industry to monopolize health care without any meaningful oversight or regulation to protect our citizens. 
Every U.S. President since Teddy Roosevelt has talked about trying to fix health care. Seven Democrats—Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton and now Obama, proposed concrete plans to fix the healthcare industry, but until now they all failed. Every time ANYONE tried, there were merciless attacks by the business community, the insurance lobby, the healthcare industry and the US Chamber of Commerce. Opponents of health care reform poured obscene amounts of money into campaigns to block reform. After the “Harry and Louise” industry TV campaign against the Clinton health care reform, I didn’t think anyone would ever take them on again in my lifetime. Last night not a single Republican voted for anything. Every single member of that political party voted in lock step as obstructionists. They were all the hand maidens of the Healthcare Lobby. I was mad as hell at the 34 Democrats that voted with the Republicans. I had helped many of those Democrats in their elections.
But here I am PO’ed at these 34 Democrats, and at the same time what about the Party of NO? At least under the big tent of the Democratic Party, there is room for members of Congress to vote differently from the leadership. Is that allowed by the Republicans? Hell no.
I have been railing against the Republican party because it demands total control, blind allegiance and total party discipline. Does that make me a hypocrite for then criticizing the 34 Democrats who voted against the Health Care Reform? If you look objectively at this (and it is hard) at least this highlights the major difference between Republican and Democrats. One is actually delivering the change the voters demanded in the last election, while the other wants to ignore the 2008 election as if it never happened.
The majority of voters demanded change and they are angry when it has taken so long to get it. Now, maybe the rest of the changes we want are beginning to happen as well.
Our system of government moves slow, it is messy, can be nasty and is a lot like making sausage. The animal is killed before the entire nation, gutted, cut up in pieces in town hall meetings and criticized by the most vocal activists who are hostile to anyone who doesn’t agree with them. The meat is then publically ground up in hearings, speeches, TV ads, and paid political PR campaigns. Spices and flavorings are argued over. Competing recipes are trashed, berated, and down right insulted by the different cooks on the floor of the chambers. Then different members throw in special private secret spices. And, finally after all that hostility and hot debates, the bill is voted up or down. Just like making home-made sausage.