Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Rock/Hard Place Conundrum

Okay, here you are, faced with a decision, perhaps the most important you’ll be given to make and the one with the most lasting consequences. You’re a smart operator. You know the numbers because you’ve done the calculus. You know that you’re a pragmatist surrounded everywhere by dreamers (isn’t that what all good Americans have been taught to do: dream?) You’re a realist with nothing but idealists—okay, ideologues—to left and right. It boils down to two choices.

Choice one, you outright reject compromise. Right off—who knows for how long?—you please those who voted for you under the delusion that you were some kind of Superman or Messiah, or at least a magician who could bring about the “change we can believe in” with the wave of a wand. You get to feel good about yourself for demonstrating that you have the spine that others in your party lack. You will also have done “the right thing” by your conscience, since this is clearly the right thing to do. You get to fly boldly in the face of your opponents…

BUT/AND… your calculus tells you that you could very well lose the bet, that the numbers don’t add up. Staking everything, you risk losing everything, and your deep sense of responsibility tells you that you could at least achieve something for those you have come here to serve. That you could open a door that might otherwise be slammed shut—and stay that way for years to come. Do you owe it to all Americans to do that little bit, even though it’s far less than you yourself might want, and far, far less than your supporters expect of you?

Choice two, you embrace compromise. Immediately everybody hates you. Your erstwhile supporters castigate you for having betrayed their trust, for wimping out to loud-mouthed ignorance, and for failing to stand up to the oligarchs in the insurance business. Your opponents at once despise you for your weakness and gloat over what they construe as your defeat.

BUT/AND you have come away with something that has eluded your predecessors for decades: the glimmerings of promise for the future, a door left open just a crack—one that might just give way under further pressure in the months and years to come. You will have done this as an act of service and sacrifice, for the sake of people who will recognize it as no favor but rather react as though you had just spat in their face. But still, in your heart you will cling to the belief that this was the best you could have done—though not one other person in the country shares your opinion.

Faced with such a choice, I honestly don’t know what I myself would do. The easy one is the no-compromise option. I don’t have the actual responsibility to countless millions of Americans, so I can settle for the self-satisfaction of pretending that I’d hang tough, I’d show those ignorant, self-important critics who’s in charge. I’d be “presidential.” I’d lead the charge into the teeth of the opposition. But then I ask myself: is that my ego talking, or my rational self?

I don’t know the answer. I do hope that Obama holds firm with some form of public option as his bottom line. At the same time, it would be an act of willful ignorance on my part NOT to acknowledge how hard a choice he faces, and how much depends, one way or the other on his resolve. I wish him well.

5 comments:

Pete Hoge said...

I hope our healthcare system
somehow fits the needs of everyone
no matter what happens in congress.
Not sure if the industry is capable
of becoming democratically inclined.

Obama should read some Stoics.

What can he control?

Pete.

They call him James Ure said...

I'm troubled about politics right now and am actually worried that some armed conflict might explode given the way people have been acting. I sure hope I'm wrong.

Part of me want to give Obama a chance and see what half-measures he comes up with. If it looks like it will at least get rid of pre-existing conditions and dramatically lower costs then I'll stick with him and the Democrats.

However, if we don't get a public option (my preferred plan--well, actually my preferred plan is single payer) and we don't get rid of the pre-existing crap while lowering costs then I'll jump ship.

As for the trigger option I'm not sure what I think of that right now. I am leery of it simply because the insurance companies and drug companies have had too long to game the system.

I worry that they will still have too much power if there isn't a bill without eliminating pre-existing conditions and lowering costs.

The Co-op idea is a non-starter for me.

I wouldn't just jump ship on Obama but the Democrats altogether. I've been a Democrat for as long as I can remember but I'm not a partisan. I've been frustrated with them since the last days of Clinton yet I've stuck with them.

I stuck with Gore and Kerry while working hard as the loyal opposition during the Bush reign. However, I'm at the end of my rope. I'm ready to jump ship to the Green Party. I know everyone says that's throwing your vote away. Maybe--maybe not.

If we can't get public option passed with a popular president as Obama and majorities in both houses then what difference does it make if I keep voting Democrat?

Maybe if enough people go over to the Green Party we can get the Democrats and Republicans to clue in and realize not everyone in their parties are happy with what they do.

At least with the Greens I'll feel good about my vote every time even though I know the Green candidate wouldn't probably win. I believe in integrity a lot and I'm feeling a bit cheap by always letting the Democrats screw me over.

Anonymous said...

the Obama speech sounded great, but still not sure of the details of the plan. We have a representational government so that they can take care of the details, but they seem to take care of opening loopholes for their friends, except for Kucinich can we trust the politicians, I suppose they get another chance.

Richard said...

If Obama takes choice one he will please the people who voted for him in the short term. But he can't please them forever and from my vantage point across the pond, it seems that his approval rating is fading already.

From my perspective part of the problem is that he is fighting against enormously well entrenched and powerful opposition.

Compromise is his best option, as that will at least make some change and will set a precedent for the future. The Tao Te Ching tells us about the fate of the unbendingly rigid.

What we must remember is that the forces that oppose change must win every fight in order to maintain the status quo, the forces of change need only win once. In my opinion, their position is like a "Tower Defense" game, their eventual defeat is not in question, but a question of when, where and at what cost?

People seemed to think that Obama could wave a wand and fix the world, but things change slowly and with great sustained effort, this was never going to be pretty or easy.

Don't judge him too harshly though, he's only human at the end of the day.

Gary said...

The insurance companies are the ridigd unbending profiteers who have the confidence game all worked out with the advertisers they employ to bite off the finger of change. If the winds of change are strong enough to topple their tree I will be astonished! Their business model is Machiavellian to be sure. No industry that represents a limited proportion of the public will be democratic. James is right about "too long in the game".

Obama is despised by the sour grapes party for his
win, color, history and willingness to work with the other side. Joe Wilson's "You lie" comment clearly defines the "red neck" role playing position. Anything to bring this "boy" down off his soap box.

I do believe that a foot in the door is probably all we can expect now unless it really is as my neighbor says, he works with the democratic party and answers to Rahm Emanuel: They have 51 votes in the senate already and are looking for nine brave
senators to join them. As for the trigger option in five years we only need to look at other government regulators successes so far to know that the gun will be broken before the trigger is pulled.

From Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy we have not overcome the profit motive when it comes to public health. Only continued pressure exerted now by hounding the representatives we did and didn't
vote for can push the mud away from the door
of negative perceptions to let in some light.

WE THE PEOPLE must never give up the freedom to speak, write and assemble!