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Change . . . If You Want It

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"Change . . . If You Want It"


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Two weeks ago health reform looked to be completely on track. Today the only impediment to it passing is that House Democrats who already voted in favor of health reform need to vote in favor of health reform a second time. Had Martha Coakley won the election in Massachusetts, House Democrats who already voted in favor of health reform would need to vote in favor of it a second time. What’s more, given that House Democrats have already voted in favor of health reform it’s already inevitable that they will be attacked for having voted in favor of health reform. It makes no sense substantively and no sense politically for anyone who was prepared to vote for health reform two weeks ago to not vote for it now.

Explaining the October Revolution, Trotsky said “power was lying in the streets—we picked it up.” Now I’m not one of those guys who gets sentimental about Trotsky; notwithstanding his falling out with Stalin they were both bad guys. But you’re talking about someone who had an understanding of political action.

Ever since November of 2008, power has been lying not in the street but in the halls of Congress. And it seems to me that many members of Congress have been simply unwilling to accept that fact. They want to evade responsibility. They want to talk about Chuck Grassley or Olympia Snowe or now Scott Brown. They want to talk about polls. They want to talk about tea parties. They want to talk about cable news. They want to talk about process. But they have to recognize what’s happening. The power is there. Anthony Weiner and Barney Frank and Evan Bayh are all autonomous human beings. If they choose not to pass health care, then they have the right to do so. But it’s up to them and they just need to decide. The way things happen in politics is that people put themselves in a position to do certain things, and then they do them. House Democrats are in a position to enact a sweeping reform of America’s health care system. Will they do it, or are there two parties that support the status quo?

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