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Linda Bergthold

Linda Bergthold

Posted: January 21, 2010 06:51 PM

The Best Lack All Conviction, While the Worst Are Full of Passionate Intensity

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The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity... Surely some revelation is at hand; Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
William Butler Yeats "The Second Coming"


Not to get too dramatic, but the Republican victory in Massachusetts made me want to hide under the covers and never come out. Then I saw this quote and thought that one reason why the Democrats lost, in addition to tone deafness, poor campaign and candidate, and the bad economy, was that we had relatively little intensity about this campaign. What is the "revelation" for the Democrats now? Is there a possibility of a "second coming" for the Party and for health reform?

There have been and will be multitudinous analyses about this election and what it means. I could fill this blog with links to smart, sad or even funny takes on what happened.

But I'm more interested in what convictions are left in the Democratic party and how they might be manifest in finishing the job with health reform. Last week, we were literally days away from combining the House and the Senate health reform bills into a single piece of legislation. Many of the elements of contention had been sent to the CBO for review and analysis; a lot of language had been written and re-written. We were closer than we had been for 40 years. Inches, not feet, not even yards.

So what happens now? We do have at least one way forward. It's called "House passes the Senate bill and fixes it with reconciliation." This would not be as good as the compromise bill they had almost completed, but many of the key issues -- how it would be paid for, how large the subsidies might be, whether there would be a public option, whether Medicare could be extended to people age 55 to 64 -- could perhaps be included in a reconciliation package that would require only 51 not 60 votes. At least some of the policy wonks think so.

Do Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats have enough "conviction" to do this? Can they get some passionate intensity around moving forward? Can the President? Not clear. Not clear at all.

I'm done with predictions. I'm totally into fantasy now. And my fantasy is that the House Democrats swallow their pride and their individual issues, pass the Senate bill, fix it with a reconciliation package and send it to the President for signature by Valentine's day. XXOO.

And my other fantasy is that Obama comes into the State of the Union speech swinging. Doesn't have to be rude. Americans don't like too much rudeness in their leaders (although, frankly, have they been listening to Limbaugh, Steele, McConnell, Boehner lately?). Obama doesn't have to put down the Republicans, he needs to put "up" what he is for. Why he ran. Why so many supported him. Maybe we thought once we elected him, we could just sit back and put our feet up and relax. No conviction needed now. No passionate intensity. Well we were wrong. If Obama and the Democrats can show some passionate intensity now, I can show some intensity in fighting for the agenda. No revelation needed. Only the second coming and finish for health reform.

Update: Paul Krugman and Ezra Klein agree.