Conservative and GOP fretting about Obama's choice of Tom Daschle as Secretary of Health and Human Services reveals a whole new level of cynicism. It shows that they know quite well that the people really want universal health care, and that only distraction and stalling tactics have managed to keep it at bay until now.
They know better than the left---I guess because they've been furiously playing the shell game for so many years---how quickly Americans will grow used to the security and confidence of guaranteed health care coverage. And the man who can make that happen? As (conservative) U.S. News and World Report blogger James Pethothoukis said yesterday in a piece entitled "How Tom Daschle Might Kill Conservatism,"
it turns out that the fearsome harbinger of free-market doom is the mild-mannered ex-U.S. senator with the little, red glasses, Tom Daschle.
UPDATE: Rec list? I'm honored--thanks. Let's win this one.
More cynical still, showing how policy for the GOP is purely political rather than a desire to serve the public, is a quote from Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute stating that "blocking Obama's health plan is key to the GOP's survival."
How tragic (though not surprising) that a major political party ties its future to the faint hope of denying the public of a basic right, a right that the vast majority of the people want now. Imagine: the party's survival depends on thwarting the public will! We've known this all along, but it's a shock to hear it stated so boldly. I enjoyed reading it, however, because the lament that Obama chose a "heavy hitter" like Daschle makes me even happier with the choice.
In spite of himself, though, the author makes two significant points about passing health care reform legislation.
First, he says, "passage would be a political gamechanger," because economically underprivileged conservative voters would support it indefinitely. They'd be hard to manipulate, is what he means. He quotes Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute as saying "Blocking Obama's health plan is key to the GOP's survival."
Can there be a stronger incentive for the progressive left to rally around this cause?
Secondly, he says that "shrinking government would get exponentially tougher." Given his politics, he can't quite get that the obvious reason is that people would see the benefit of expanded government protection of their health and welfare.
To fight this, he invites the GOP to learn "to competently talk healthcare." (There's an amusing kind of sleight of hand hidden in that split infinitive, I feel.) His suggestions predictably lean toward reducing coverage and increasing profits for the insurance industry.
Funny as this is, it's a mistake to laugh too soon. Conservative panic about health care reform indicates both fear and resolve. They believe (or perhaps are finally understanding) that the election poses a threat to their laissez-faire, survival of the fittest creed. They will do their utmost to block it. Defying logic, defying the realization of businesses, doctors, nurses, and politicians of (almost) every stripe that some kind of universal care is the solution to the current crisis, stalwart wingnuts simply fail to get it. Why? It's not in their economic interest to get it.
I'm not sure how to do it, but we need to build political will, momentum and effective coalitions to make significant health care changes inevitable in the first 100 days of the new administration. My preference is a single-payer plan, because it offers the best chance for universal coverage and reining in costs. There are some terrific plans out there, ranging from the Kucinich/Conyers plan, HR 676, to the Kennedy/Dingell Medicare for All Act, to the Obama plan.
Let's discuss the pros & cons of each plan. We need to build a buzz and a consensus, and a sense of entitlement that makes failure impossible.
UPDATE: A Frontline documentary comparing different national plans (hat tip to sedagive and SteveGA in the comments below).