THE BLOG
04/28/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Say No to "Death Panels"

Ok, for those who cared to watch the Battle at Blair House yesterday, it should be patently obvious that all efforts at post partisanship should be put to pasture. There is simply no inclination on the part of the opposition at this point to attempt to reach a consensus on this. It is an all or nothing proposition, with the political calculus on each side set in stone.

On the Republican side they have made their calculations that defeating anything this President and a Democratic-controlled Congress offers is a political winner. On the Democratic side they have made the calculation that passing even a scaled-back version of what at one time was a comprehensive health care reform initiative is a political winner. The lines are drawn and we will see which calculation was the correct one.

But something has to give, because the defeatist calculation has two shots at prevailing: one, they can beat it back by successfully defeating a proposal through a vote; or two, they can beat it back by inaction on the part of the Democrats. The Democrats only have one course to victory and that is to win on a positive vote since having large majorities in Congress and the White House prevents them from credibly saying well we tried and they refused. In that case they win.

So having said this there is only one way to proceed, and that is to push it to a vote. Since the prospects of success on a 60 vote process are nil, you must proceed on a process that guarantees that 51, a majority, is good enough to secure passage. Now isn't that a novel concept, majority rules. I certainly am sympathetic to the notion that the minority has rights, but a minority of 49 is acceptable, a minority of 40 is not.

What I found intriguing about yesterday's exercise is that it is the first time I have seen a President so engaged in a substantive debate on a very complex set of issues. For those who have on occasion witnessed the Prime Minister in England being pounded and heckled before his legislative body and marveled at the spectacle, as I have, yesterday was about as close as we get in this country.

And in a perverse sort of way, listen closely Sarah Palin, what you saw yesterday was the Republican opposition tipping their hand on the issue of "death panels". Yep, there they were basically insisting that health care is not a right, oh yeah and we cannot afford it anyway, and if you take that to its logical conclusion you come to the point where what they are essentially saying is that we, the imperial Congress, will decide who gets it and who doesn't. If you can afford it, you live, if you cannot afford it, you suffer the consequences, which could be death.

I discovered, to my deepest chagrin, many months ago that if you just boil issues down to their simplest components you can get a good feel for the tact the opposition will employ. I asked a dear friend of mine, who happens to be a Republican, this simple question, "does everyone have a right and should everyone have the opportunity to be afforded adequate health care?" Surprisingly, she had difficulty answering the question. I was surprised because I was sure that she was a thinking person's Republican, a moderate suburbanite not captured by the tea bagger set. But she was stumped and could not answer right away. Finally, after some considerable thought she said no.

I could have stood there and argued till I was blue in the face but I simply just looked at her incredulously and as if to say, "is that your final answer?" I just said, "Really, that is interesting".
So if that is your belief, how could you possibly expect a set of compromises to emerge from any discussion or negotiation when the basic building blocks of reform are that you must first acknowledge what needs to be reformed.

So it turns out that the real purveyors of "death panels" are those who would deny a proportion of the population the chance to live based on whether or not they could afford it. We must get on with the agenda of the people, pass health care reform and begin to tackle the other pressing issues that affect us on a daily basis: jobs, economic recovery, financial system sanity, and climate change, particularly with an eye on the alternative energy jobs that are the constructive by-product of saving the planet.

The President has done all that he possibly can to engage in a constructive bipartisan discussion on this issue, he has been more patient than even his most ardent supporters, of which I count myself as one, can stomach, and the cool demeanor and serene self-confidence that defines his persona started to fray yesterday, and for good reason. Let's reject the "death panel" position of the opposition and move forward, forthwith.

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?