I’ve certain intimated in earlier posts about how much my trip to DC changed me. It certainly did. I was simultaneously humbled and never more sure of my own capabilities. But one of the more painful things about the trip was the way it moderated my politics… something I didn’t anticipate going into the trip.
I think what I learnt, more than anything, was the difference between advocacy and governing, and about the time for each, and when it’s appropriate for someone who holds an elected official to do either.
I think one of the big problems in the way the US Congress works is the conflation of the two. Certainly, in the Republican’s case, it makes political sense to be obstructionist. If the Democrats pass health care reform, in the long run it will be a good thing for the Dems, and it may even stop the 2010 election from being TOTAL bloodshed.
But left wing Dems, who are voting against health care because it’s not progressive enough, make no sense. There is a time for advocating a certain policy position. That is not now. Because the votes aren’t there for a public option, and killing a good bill because it’s not a great bill achieves nothing. And doing it to make a point achieves nothing.
And that’s the thing. Government needs people in different roles in order to function. It needs advocates and lobbyists to push certain points of view. It needs people to brief and to inform and to pressure. But it also needs people to govern. It needs people to make a decision that is both in the interest of their constituents and politically feasible. Sure, what is politically feasible changes with the briefing and the informing and the pressure. But at a certain point, it becomes necessary to face reality.
So liberals need to give up on the Public Option. It’s not going to happen right now. It might happen in the future, but it’s not going to happen right now. And they need to remember that August, during the break, was when the educating and the convincing needed to happen. It’s too late now. Effective government is about knowing when is the time to try to convince, and when is the time to examine the situation and act according to the reality of the electorate.
Governing can only be partially ideological. Pragmatism must have a place. The Democrats need every vote they can get on Health Care reform, and ideologues like Dennis Kuchinich are showing a remarkable lack of responsibility by acting as though voting no is a way to change minds. The time for advocacy is over- it’s now time to govern.