THE BLOG
08/01/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why "60 Votes" Doesn't Matter (and 70 Wouldn't Either)

Victory! With the Minnesota Supreme Court's decision and Norm Coleman's concession, Democrats have finally achieved a 60-vote majority in the U.S. Senate.

You know what that means. No more Republican filibusters. No more obstruction. From this moment on, Democrats can achieve everything we've been waiting for, without compromising or watering down our beliefs.

What's that? You don't think we're about to enter a period of non-stop accomplishment? You don't think we'll achieve truly universal health care easily? You don't think we'll be celebrating one progressive victory after another? You don't think after all our hard battles we have ushered in an era of transformational change?

You might be right about that.

Yes, we've hit the 60-vote threshold, meaning that if the entire Democratic caucus is (a) in the Senate chamber at one time and (b) manages to vote unanimously on cloture, we will beat any Republican filibuster. But even if we managed to do that on a consistent basis -- even if we had 65 or 70 votes instead of 60 -- you would still be disappointed in the bills that passed the Senate.

Why is that? What keeps Democrats from accessing their inner Tom DeLay and ramming effective bills through when they clearly have the power to do so?

They've got a bug. It's a serious infection, one they can't seem to shake. It's called bipartisanship.

It's an insidious illness, this bipartisanship. It gets into your heart and your brain, seriously affecting your ability to set priorities in a rational manner. Just imagine for a moment that you've spent a lifetime working in public service, battling it out in one grueling campaign after another because you believe deeply in a set of principles. Then at the moment when you finally find yourself in a position to effect real change based on those ideals you hold dear, you come down with a bad case of bipartisanship.

Suddenly, you don't care about results. You don't care about changing lives. You believe in a new principle above all others: the only worthwhile policies are those you can agree on with your ideological opposites.

A lot of progressives complain that our leadership isn't progressive enough. But that's not the real problem. President Obama and our leaders in Congress believe in universal health care. If they could flip a switch and make it a reality, they probably would.

But they are convinced that the biggest problem in Washington is partisan bickering. Egged on by Republicans and the media, they believe that if Democrats and Republicans can just get along, we'll finally be able to achieve real progress in Washington.

It's a nice thought. The problem is that it's exactly the opposite of the truth. There's a reason the Democratic and Republican parties are two separate parties: because the people they represent believe in fundamentally different solutions to our nation's problems. If I believe in solution A, and you believe in solution Z, that doesn't mean there's a solution M that will work best. In fact, it's much more likely that A or Z -- a strong, uncompromised idea -- will get the job done.

President Obama and the Democrats in Congress have an opportunity to make history. Imagine for a moment that they passed a truly sweeping health care bill that made sure no American ever had to worry about medical costs again. Wouldn't that be an historic achievement? Wouldn't it virtually guarantee continued electoral success for Democrats for years to come? Wouldn't President Obama go down in history as one of the great ones for that single accomplishment?

There's only one thing standing in Democrats' way: their own fervent belief that bipartisanship is more important than solving the very problems that motivated them to run for office in the first place.

Bipartisanship is like any other infection -- you need to fight it off. We've got all the tools we need: a president with stratospheric approval ratings, a House caucus that can act with impunity, and the big Six-Oh in the Senate.

So let's do it. Let's give everyone real health care. Let the Republicans and the chattering classes complain all they want that we aren't playing fair. We'll laugh all the way to the ballot box -- and the history books.