Andrew Sullivan, who was largely responsible for derailing Bill Clinton’s 1994 health care reform, likewise urges Obama and the Democrats to seize the moment:
[Obama should] tell the American people that he understands their anger and frustration (hence the big swipe at the banks last week), but that he refuses to stand by and do nothing. If the American people want nothing, they should support the opposition. If the American people want something, they should back the president they just elected in implementing a health reform plan he campaigned on.
Jonathan Bernstein explains why the “safe” choice of trying to appease your partisan opponents has little effect:
Democrats can be assured that Republicans will attack them, regardless of what they do. Democrats could eliminate the estate tax permanently, slash the capital gains tax, repeal the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, invade Iran, and pass a Constitutional Amendment outlawing abortion, and Republicans would still attack them — with exactly the same vehemence and vigor that Republicans have now. That’s politics. It’s how partisan politics is played. It is absolutely impossible to avoid attacks from one’s opponents; nothing you do gives them license to attack, because they will attack whatever you do. Oh, and this isn’t partisan; Democrats are going to attack Republicans, whatever the Republicans do.
Don’t believe me? Republicans are attacking Democrats for taking away people’s guns, even though the Democrats basically surrendered on that issue fifteen years ago. They are attacking Democrats for cutting Medicare and for allowing Medicare to grow so fast that it’ll bankrupt the nation — sometimes in the very same speech (I’ve seen it in the same paragraph)…
My advice to Democrats unsure about what to do is this: think about the actual bill, and what its effects would be if it became law. If in your judgment those effects would be bad for your constituents, then odds are they will dislike it, blame you for it, and you’ll be in trouble. If those effects would be good for your constituents, then vote for it. Then figure out how you’re going to sell the thing and yourself, based on that vote. But don’t back off of it because you think it will open you up to attacks; you’re wide open right now, and you’ll remain wide open regardless of what you do.
Jonathan Cohn writes a letter to the House Democrats who are considering not voting on the Senate bill:
I don’t want to mislead you: You could pass the Senate bill, which you may really not like, and still lose reelection. But passing health care reform would seem, if anything, to improve your odds of political survival. And if it doesn’t–if you’re doomed to lose anyway–enacting health care reform would give you a meaningful accomplishment in your record.
Think of everything you could do while serving in Congress. Would any single act be bigger than this? However imperfect, it will make a huge difference in people’s lives–and, quite likely, the evolution of the American social welfare state. You’ll be sparing financial or physical hardship for thousands of Americans every year, while delivering peace of mind–and safer, higher quality medicine–to literally millions of others. You’ll be saving the American economy and, along the way, helping people to stay healthy.
You can be a part of this moment in history–and, if you play your cards right, stick around in Congress long enough to enjoy it. It just takes some common sense–and maybe a little mettle.
In other words: Vote for the Damn Bill!