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Joan E. Dowlin Headshot

Dems Should Go For Broke

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"Go for broke" may be the wrong metaphor to use in these turbulent financial times, but the Democratic party is in an almost unprecedented position right now in Washington. They have control of the Senate and the House of Representatives and the White House. It is similar to the situation President George W. Bush and his party were in after the 2002 congressional elections when the Republicans had won the majority in both branches of congress and Bush made several appointments to the Supreme Court.

Bush and the GOP took great advantage, pushing through game changing legislation such as tax cuts for the rich, the Patriot Act, a new Homeland Security department, authorization of two wars, a military prisoner camp in Guantanamo Bay, use of enhanced interrogation techniques, and approval for domestic spying on American citizens. No one questioned such actions after 9/11, fearing we needed added security. None seemed concerned about the costs or the harm it would do to the budget or our reputation globally.

After the federal government's disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the exposure of inexcusable deplorable conditions in Walter Reed Medical Center, a Veterans' hospital in DC, and a Justice Department scandal, the public was ready for a change. In 2006, the Democrats retook the House and the Senate. In 2008, they expanded their majority and in the midst of an economic melt down, a Democrat, Barack Obama became the first African American elected to the Presidency.

It seems to me that is a mandate. I know it takes awhile to make a big ship of state change course. It is like trying to move the Titanic out of the way of an iceberg at the last minute. But the American electorate is restless and they want recovery to come faster than humanly possible.

This impatience and anger at incumbents could translate into the loss of several Democratic seats in congress for this coming fall election. That is why the Dems should move fast to pass health care reform, a student loan overhaul, a jobs bill, financial regulatory reform, climate change legislation, immigration reform, and the end of the military's don't ask, don't tell gay policy. The window of opportunity is closing quickly.

The opposition may be fierce and the right wing pundits may paint this health care bill as unpopular but this could be an historic year. The Democrats and progressives must remember that in its day, Social Security was disliked, Medicare untrusted, and the Civil Rights Bill thought unnecessary. In each case a Democratic President pushed his party to support these human rights causes. (FDR for Social Security in 1935, and LBJ for Medicare in 1964 and the Civil Rights Act in 1965.)

Through the years, these legislative victories have been proven to be well worth the time and trouble it took to pass them. President Obama has said that the time is now to pass health care reform, not for political purposes but because it is the right thing to do. I hope the Democrats heed his call. We can no longer afford to have over 45,000 deaths a year due to 40 million Americans being uninsured or allow HMOs to discriminate due to pre-existing conditions or drop insurers' coverage when they get ill.

If the Democrats are facing defeat in 2010, they may as well go down in a blaze of glory. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House have done their part in getting 290 bills passed in the last two years. Most have languished in the Senate due to filibustering by the GOP. So much for bi-partisanship.

This is why reconciliation is necessary to pass health care. I have railed against the Democrats in the past for being wimpy but they now have an excellent chance to change the course of history by passing health care reform and restoring fiscal regulation and sanity. I hope they take this opportunity to do the noble thing. I say no guts, no glory. Dems, go for broke!

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