Democrats who are anxious about the white house summit on health care tomorrow should find comfort and encouragement in Michael Gerson’s WaPo op-ed. “Obama’s Health Reform Gamble Raises Questions of Judgment.” Gerson, who served as President Bush’s chief speechwriter and a senior GOP policy advisor, provides perhaps the best bellwether in newspaper journalism for Democratic policy-making, in that, whatever he advocates is designed to support Republican political interests, and therefore will likely screw everyone but the rich. Here’s Gerson’s critique of the budget reconciliation process:
…Enacting health reform through the quick, dirty shove of the reconciliation process — would add coercion to arrogance…the imposition of a House-Senate health-reform hybrid would confirm the worst modern image of the Democratic Party, that of intellectual arrogance. Parties hurt themselves most when they confirm a destructive public judgment. In this case, Americans would see Democrats pushing a high-handed statism…Obama’s decision on the use of reconciliation will define his presidency. If he trusts in his charmed political fortunes and lets the dice fly, it will raise the deepest questions about his judgment.
In Gerson-think a simple majority is tantamount to a “dirty shove,” “coercion,” “arrogance,” and “high-handed statism.” He suggests it’s “intellectual arrogance” to believe that a true majority requires less than 60 percent. His readers are supposed to buy the argument that passing legislation with anything less than 60 Senate votes is outrageous.
Gerson warns that budget reconciliation “would almost certainly maintain conservative and Republican intensity through the November elections” — as if there was any chance of that not happening. He says budget reconciliation “would both insult House and Senate Republicans and motivate them for future fights.” What, not like now? We certainly don’t want to hurt their tender feelings, since they have been so kind when they were in majority.
Gerson’s readers are supposed to believe that, if only the selfish Democrats would cave on the principles that elected them, Republicans would become more cooperative. He warns, “The minority would not only be defeated on health reform but its rights would be permanently diminished — a development that would certainly be turned against Democrats when they lose their majority” — which sounds an awful lot like majority rule.
Few Dems will be hustled by Gerson’s polemic. No one believes the Republicans would not use budget reconciliation to enact any part of their agenda, as they did to ram through Bush’s deficit-expanding tax cuts and in their failed attempt to open the Arctic National Wildlife refuge to oil drilling.
More importantly, majority rule — 50 percent plus one — is more than defensible. It’s a fundamental principle of great democracies. Arguing otherwise, that the party in minority should have a permanent stranglehold on the fate of all reform legislation– is the real elitist arrogance.