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This Is What They Get Paid For November 9, 2010

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, politics.

According to the standard Washington narrative, repeated ad nauseum by commentators on cable news and the fish-wrap, was that Democrats over-reached during their time in power, passing lots of legislation that the public didn’t like, and and thus were defeated in the midterm elections.

And the Washington press corps had one question repeatedly on their minds—Was it worth it?

I doubt that “over-reach” explains the defeat. If the economy were humming along we wouldn’t be having this discussion. But besides that, the question “Was it worth it?” is a strange one to be asking a politician in a democracy.

William Saletan in Slate had the best take on this:

“[I]f health care did cost the party its majority, so what? The bill was more important than the election.”

Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren’t going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.

And that’s not counting financial regulation, economic stimulus, college lending reform, and all the other bills that became law under Pelosi. So spare me the tears and gloating about her so-called failure. If John Boehner is speaker of the House for the next 20 years, he’ll be lucky to match her achievements. […]

It’s funny, in a twisted way, to read all the post-election complaints that Democrats lost because they thought only of themselves. Even the chief operating officer of the party’s leading think tank, the Center for American Progress, says Obama failed to convince Americans “that he knows their jobs are as important as his.” That’s too bad, because Obama, Pelosi, and their congressional allies proved just the opposite. They risked their jobs — and in many cases lost them — to pass the health care bill. The elections were a painful defeat, and you can argue that the bill was misguided. But Democrats didn’t lose the most important battle of 2010. They won it.

When I vote for politicians, I expect them to do what is best for the country; not whatever will keep them in power. Democrats ran on a platform that included health care reform as a priority; to not pass it would have been a breach of trust.

As Steve Benen writes:

Call me old fashioned, but I thought the point of getting elected is to try to make a difference. Acquiring power just for the sake of having it is hollow exercise in vanity. Once in a great while, officials have an opportunity to use their power to improve the lives of their fellow citizens and make the country considerably better off.

I get the sense this week that some would have counseled Democrats to let the opportunity pass for the sake of their careers. “We didn’t do much,” Dems could say this week, “but at least we’re still in charge.”

What nonsense.

Democrats started 2009 with an abundance of political capital, which they proceeded to invest. The efforts didn’t pay off on Tuesday, but the dividends for the country will be felt for years.

The question “Was it worth it?’ just misses the point—which is what one would expect from the institution formerly known as “journalism”.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com



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