Republicans and Health Care Reform: Who's Divided?

09/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Republicans criticizing health care reform efforts are beginning to sound as principled as Groucho Marx, who once quipped: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them, . . . well I have others." On the one hand Republicans complain that health care reform will cost too much money. On the other hand, they complain that Obama will ration care, killing your grandmother if he has to, to save money.

These two arguments are as consistent as what British people call pudding, about as coherent as a Sarah Palin resignation speech. And yet, it is the Democrats who, according to common wisdom, are divided over health care reform?

In fact, the battle over health care reform nicely summarizes the state of the two parties. The Democrats are deeply engaged in this important issue, struggling to find a way to pay for the health care our country needs, stumbling along the way due to the incredible complexity of our health care system, but nevertheless trying to move forward.

Meanwhile, the Republicans (except for a small number of moderates) refuse to acknowledge the importance and seriousness of this issue. All they care about is to oppose whatever plan the Democrats come up with. Hence, they throw out inconsistent criticisms without regard for their inconsistency.

The sad thing is, some Republicans really are concerned about the cost of health care reform. And others really are worried about how government will try to set limits on medical care. But to simultaneously complain about the financial cost of health care reform and about the cost savings that will follow from health care reform? This strategy merely reveals the current Republican Party as being uninterested in solving important social problems.

It is easy for a Party to be unified if its members are allowed to make incompatible claims about crucial policy issues, without acknowledging their own internal inconsistencies. If Republicans were honestly trying to help shape legislation, they would be every bit as divided as Democrats. Their current unity is merely a sign of their political self-marginalization.

We should all be concerned about the current state of the Republican Party. Health care legislation will be better if Republicans try to shape it, rather than merely trying to sabotage it.

We should all be thankful that the Democrats care enough about health care reform to have honest disagreements with each other. A Party divided is the sign of a Party deeply engaged in the issues. We can only hope that Democrats will come close enough together in the near future to begin fixing our badly broken health care system.

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