I'm looking forward to the 2010 elections. We need them.
Many dread how badly the election is shaping up. Commentators predict double digit Democratic losses in the House and further retreat from the sixty vote threshold in the Senate. We fear a progressive era strangled in its infancy.
But there's a sunny side too. The election can bring the fight out of us. We can turn complaints about how bad things are into complaints about how we got here and how long it will take us to dig out. Like in 2008, the elections in 2010 give us an opportunity to point out the failures of long conservative reign and dare conservatives to try to take us backward.
• Don't like the deficit? Three times as much of it came from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (unpaid for) and the Bush tax cuts (without offsets) as from the Obama's Recovery Act.
• Don't like the job situation? We lost 11,000 jobs in November. That's bad. But we lost 533,000 jobs in November of last year, the crowning achievement of Bush's presidency. It will take a long time to turn this around. But at least we're turning.
• Frustrated about health care reform? Me too. But don't forget how bad it was. Health care spending rose from 13.8 percent of GDP when Bush took office to 16.6 percent last year -- even as the number of uninsured grew by a million people every year. So we spent more every year but got less for it. In personal terms, the cost of a family premium more than doubled, from $5,791 in 1999 to $12,680 in 2008.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation
A few years ago, guaranteed, affordable health care for all was an impossible dream. Now it's just a few votes away. Let's thank the progressive forces that got us this far rather than assailing them for compromise. Save the attacks for the forces that compelled the compromise.
Other changes haven't even begun to take effect. We're beginning efforts to regulate financial markets so Wall Street serves the real economy, not the other way around. We're taking baby steps towards energy independence, and even starting to make sure that the components of our new energy economy are made in America -- so we don't replace a dependence on foreign oil with a dependence on foreign manufacturing. We're starting to reign in private contractors who took over public functions but left the public interest behind, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.
We want those things to happen. All that and more. But we won't get there if we start circling the firing squad over who's to blame over health care reform. We know who's to blame. Obstructionist senators, obsolete 60 vote filibuster rules, and giant corporations who buy their influence. Our deep hole comes compliments of conservative ideologues who valued private interest over the common good.
The President doesn't talk about that much. In a non-election year, the leader of our great democracy chose to govern not to campaign. Senators who wanted change tried in good faith to work with Senators who preferred failure to reform. They treated gridlock like bad weather, a chance misfortune, not a deliberate strategy by the opposition party.
An election year can be different. We can bring the fight back -- for the ideas and ideals that will put the government on the side of working people and heal our broken economy. The people want these changes. An election is a chance to fight. Bring it on.