November 12, 2007

Wow. That's a statement I can get behind.

Ezra Klein:

So we're back to arguing about John Edwards' plan to strip members of Congress of their health care if they don't pass comprehensive reform. I'm always astonished at how bizarrely literally pundits act when they approach this idea. It's true that, in the strong form, its; unconstitutional. Edwards cannot, with his pen, deprive anyone of their health care. The Edwards Campaign, by contrast, says that it will take the form of a bill sent to Congress, which seems constitutional, though everyone says it would be impossible to pass.

But would it be? That's the part I don't understand. Why wouldn't the Democratic leadership want to use this legislation to hammer away at Republicans? To force them to go on the record about the importance of their own health care? The idea behind this bill is that it will ratchet up political pressure for change, creating a situation in which Congressmen come to the table because they fear losing their seats if they don't. It's a strategy based on the application of political pressure, not legislative finesse. And while not a surefire winner, it's certainly a plausible theory of reform.
Meanwhile, I find the liberal outrage and bewilderment over this bit of populist symbolism to be very unsettling. At base, Edwards is doing something very simple: Dramatizing the inequities in our health care system. Most liberals would have you believe that dramatizing, and fixing, the inequities in our health care system is their primary political goal. But not like this, I guess.

What Edwards' stunt does is dramatize how much Congressmen like the health care they currently receive. How far they'll go to defend it. And how hollow the inevitable protestations of dangerous, socialized medicine really are. If Congress wants to block this bill, the follow-up point, which can be made in a speech to the nation, is "if your health care is so good, why shouldn't every American be allowed to have it?" What Edwards wants to do isn't take away the health care of Congress, but expand it to the country.

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