Years ago I read a biography of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy in which the author wrote about Kennedy attending a liberal Democratic meeting on the West Side of Manhatten. After listening to them bicker among themselves for a long time, Kennedy, who had been invited there to talk about supporting a reform candidate for Judge of the Surrogate's Court, told one of his aides that he thought that his father had been right about liberals all along. What he meant by that was that his father believed that liberals demand too much perfection from candidates they support, and when they don't get it, they stop supporting them.
Flash forward to the 2010 special election in Massachusetts for the seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy. On the political blogs there is a lot of talk about whether liberals such as Jane Hamsher of Fire Dog Lake would rather have Martha Coakely lose then win. The reasoning goes that a victory by Brown, who is a very conservative Republican, and who is dedicated to stopping the health care bill, would actually be beneficial. Their thinking goes that the defeat of a bill they see as too corporate friendly would then lead the Democrats to somehow get together and pass a much more liberal bill, say, one that had a public option.
Here's my take on this issue. The defeat of the health care bill won't result in a better bill, it will result in no bill. Democrats like Nelson, Lincoln, and Bayh won't come for a more liberal bill, they will take the position that the status quo is what they should support. Why? Because they are not going to be persuaded that the loss of a Senate seat in Mass. means that people want a more liberal bill. They are going to think to themselves, "If freaking Mass. voters don't want a health care bill, then the residents of my state, which is far more conservative, don't want a health care bill."
I saw this in 1980, when liberal friends of mine supported first Kennedy over Carter and then John Anderson over Carter. What did that get them? Eight years of Reagan. Then in 2000, people like Nader said there was no difference between Gore and Bush. What did that get us? Eight years of Bush. Now, the same types are saying that there is no difference between Obama's health care bill and the status quo? What will that get us? More of the status quo.
If you are against this health care bill, and there is plenty of things I don't like about it, then this is what you are for:
1. Continued discrimination based on pre-existing conditions;
2. Continued caps on medical insurance benefits, which will result in more Americans going bankrupt;
3. The unavailability of medical insurance to the approximately 31 million people who would be covered by this plan; and
4. The continued deaths of 44,000 Americans per year because they don't have health insurance, according to a study from the Harvard Medical School.
That's your choice. The choice is not between some hypothetical health insurance bill that is never going to get passed, the choice is between the current bill and the status quo. That is what is at stake on Tuesday in Massachusetts.