03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Republican Party of Obstruction: Disturbing and Distressing

The experiment in post-partisan governance has not been met with much success in the realm of health care reform. We might be in a post, post-partisan world now, given that a solid phalanx of Republican opposition to health care reform threatens to wreck the valiant efforts of a most, most patient Democratic Senator Reid. It is disturbing, distressing and disgusting that the Republican Party has elected to behave in such a destructive, petty and vindictive way.

I have a problem with conservative orthodoxy in its current form and have voiced my concerns about conservatives many times in this forum. I have never directly attacked Republicans except to state how unfortunate it is that they have increasingly aligned themselves with some of the more radical elements of the right wing lunatic fringe. But just to be absolutely clear the depth of my dismay rests with conservatives regardless of their political party.

The root of my consternation lies with contemporary application of conservative ideology. As the health care reform drama continues to unfold it has become painfully apparent that a search for moderate Republicans, thoughtful conservatives, or pragmatic right-leaning practitioners who place the welfare of the society and its citizens above political party has become increasingly fruitless.

It is simply incomprehensible for me to fathom how in the eyes of some the current iteration of health care reform legislation has absolutely no, and I mean no, redeeming elements whatsoever. You cannot even find Republicans who are willing or brave enough to admit that there is any common ground upon which to base some agreement and move on from there. Instead there is a constant litany of reasons not to do anything. The argument, it seems to me has morphed into whether or not to do anything at all, not whether we ought to employ a different approach. It is as if we are addressing a problem that doesn't exist.

The party of "no" simply cannot bring itself to reveal any positive vision of how to proceed. Rather, the approach is one of no new taxes, no health care reform, no energy policy, no legal hearings for terrorists, no to closing Guantanamo Bay, no gay marriage, no stimulus, and the list goes on. No has become a policy issue, and doing nothing and opposing everything is the tactic. It should not be lost on anyone that the first two letters in nothing are n and o.

I would counter that the only appropriate issue where no is acceptable would be on the issue of unemployment. I could certainly live with the concept of no unemployment. However, this position does not work either because it is conservative economic dogma that a "full employment" economy is one containing anywhere from 4-7 percent unemployment. Contemporary conservative ideology certainly does smack of elitism, there simply are haves and have-nots, and whether or not it this is determined by the market or a tyrant the practical effect is the same.

The Republican Party today is completely devoid of practical solutions to policy problems. They, quite simply, have become the "No, nothing party". One could easily deduce from this position that either there are no problems or there is no political capital in devising solutions to problems that do exist. In either case serious questions are raised as to their suitability to govern. The obvious retort of course is that this question was more than adequately answered during their one party reign of power from 2000-2006. Surely they had ample opportunities to weigh in on health care reform but opted to do, well, nothing.

If their opposition were irrelevant it would not be an issue to waste ink over. However, because conservative ideology has found a room in the basement of the Democratic household, and because the majority in the Senate is so slim when considering the tactic of the filibuster, requiring that all Democratic Senators support the final product in order for it to become law, lock-step opposition from the Republican party is important and relevant. Few, I believe, appreciate the delicate balancing act that the President faces as he continues to push this crucially important reform issue.

Practical considerations dictate that we proceed deliberately and balance the needs and desires of progressive minded citizens who form a solid base of support for the President with the more moderate and yes conservative elements of this incredibly diverse coalition of elected Democrats. It is going to be a photo finish and the potential long-term benefits of setting out on a course of rectifying outrageous inequities in the current system do outweigh the short-term psychic benefits of sticking to one's principles and letting reform either stall or die altogether.

Few among us has the Solomon-like wisdom and Job-like patience to continually readjust the balance in order to meet the larger goals of health care reform, yet that is the high-wire act that we are currently witnessing from ground level. We must continue to trust the political matadors who have been charged with this awesome responsibility to wrest victory from the jaws of defeat, because the betting money would certainly have been on failure to achieve meaningful reform in light of the senselessly united opposition from the "No, Nothings".

Progressives ought not to despair. What is being attempted here is a gigantic step forward. The greatest fears are being manifested by those who wish only that we maintain the status quo and do nothing.

I am so outraged by those self-righteous conservatives who each night skirt what I believe to be the central issue involved here, namely: how can it be right to deny basic health care coverage to such a large proportion of the population and how can you oppose fixing this on moral and/or ethical grounds? Who among us actually opposes providing health care to everyone?

It is as basic as this. And the sooner we face the basic question the sooner we will be able to shed light on the invalidity of the "No, Nothing" approach. The decision will ultimately rest with the populace on whether or not to punish those who blindly followed the obstructionist path to reform.

If we fail to advance the issue, the "No, Nothings" will be rewarded for fomenting confusion and inaction, and that will most assuredly be to the detriment of the society as a whole and any semblance of a Progressive agenda. The stakes simply could not be higher.

The reward for movement on this issue will be momentum to face other issues which are awaiting serious consideration, most especially climate change. This is a dangerous time and we must maintain patience. But we must not allow our efforts at health care reform to falter or fail. There are other issues crying out to be addressed and time relentlessly ticks away.