Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Nancy Pelosi, National Hero

I say three cheers to House Speaker Pelosi for shepherding the Health Care reform bill through the house this weekend, to get it to senate reconciliation. Just a couple months ago the bill was all but moribund after the senate lost its Democratic majority.

Pelosi is a fierce partisan, much reviled by Republicans, but that’s exactly what was needed in this case. She is often criticized, even by Democrats, for not being more accommodating to the other side in her work. But I think that is na├»ve. Not a single Republican voted for the health care bill. Not one. They are apparently against health care for all Americans, satisfied that the affluent have care. Nor did Republicans propose any serious alternative, or engage in any serious debate of the substantive issues. They behaved merely as petulant obstructionists and continue to do so.

People who say Pelosi should have been more accommodating of Republicans to avoid the brinksmanship of this past weekend are not aware that we are in the era of “Fuck You politics.” There is no cooperation. There is no possibility of compromise. Conversation is not even possible. Pelosi knew that from the start and played her cards accordingly.

Some Democrats criticize her for being greedy. They say she wasted a lot of valuable time and political capital trying to get American health care grounded on a public option, rather than on private industry. Had the house supported a more moderate bill, the deal would have gone through earlier, more easily, and without the political fallout that some representatives will now suffer. But that is the fallacy of hindsight.

Pelosi had a large majority in the House and there was a narrow majority in the Senate, and Democrats were in the White House, so why NOT go for the brass ring? I would have done the same. It was not unreasonable to set the sights high. It was Republican propaganda that killed the public option, that, and Democrats’ characteristic inability to sell their ideas. Pelosi was not wrong going for the whole garbanzo. And she was smart enough to rein in her aspirations when the reality on the ground changed.

So I say, when it comes to the toughest, most junkyard-dog of a partisan legislator around, I am grateful she is on the right side.

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