The Power of Thinking Small


Ezra Klein asks Olympia Snowe if there are health care ideas that she likes, but that she doesn’t think are politically feasible. Something like how many people would prefer a single-payer system or the Wyden-Bennett approach but recognize that the votes in congress just aren’t there. She says:

I don’t know that I have anything in that category. I believe we should build upon the current system. We don’t want to disrupt that. I’m traditional in my approach towards reforming health care. Given the size and the amount of money we spend on it, I think it would be far too disruptive to upend the system. I think it’s preferable to build on what has worked well in our system and change the egregious practices in the insurance industry. I think the skepticism of that industry has been understandable and I share it, that’s why we really need to look at all facets to ensure they live up to certain standards and perform. But if they don’t, I think a trigger could be a powerful lever in that regard without having the government involved at the outset.

It’s probably helpful in some ways as a practical politician to let the contours of your ambition be totally circumscribed by practicality. But also a bit sad. A relatively small number of somewhat right-of-center senators have an enormous amount of practical power at this point in time. If more of them had more in the way of vision and ambition, they might really be able to get great things done. But the tendency is for them to be much more split-the-difference compromisers than big thinking radical centrists.