Health Reform: Hope & Foreboding
Shameful? I’m referring to legislators’ behaviors that engaged bumper-sticker sloganeering (“Cornhusker Kickback”), childish repetitiveness (“. . . this flawed bill”), name-calling (“Baby-killer”), and tit-for-tat posturing for the party leadership. Instead of true debate—involving reasoned response to an opponent’s arguments—this process involved overt partisanship that had little to do with healthcare legislation and everything to do with political will to power.
My 18 year old son, with vocational aspirations that might include law and politics, watched the C-Span coverage with me for awhile. In the midst of “debate,” he turned to me with wide eyes, clearly disappointed, and asked, “Is this for real? Do they really act this way in Congress?” I felt ashamed of my generation of lawmakers.
Or of some. Others in Washington last weekend chose to work more reasonably toward an incremental change in the way healthcare insurance works in a system that has been flawed or broken far too long. Our infamous three tiers (the Haves, Have-Somes, and Have-Nots) are shifting to something more like two, with fewer of us being left out entirely. Fixing insurance gaps and abuses is a big deal, and those who struck a deal to do so are to be commended—or mostly so.
I regret that all of this divided down party lines, and that a few “Tea Party” demonstrators outside the Capitol treated disrespectfully and even criminally several of our most distinguished legislators. I worry that legislation passed will get hung up in further stalling tactics, court cases, state constitutional amendments, and legislative challenges. I anticipate a backlash from those already raging against this show of democratic process, such as it is, who fear that they will lose if others gain, who desperately grasp at power and control.
While this major step toward a more just healthcare system gives many of us hope, it also leaves me with a sense of foreboding that we have not seen the end of Congressional and civilian incivility. With midterm elections just around the corner, the shameful behaviors witnessed in Washington recently may be just the beginning. I hope not.