Tuesday, August 04, 2009

The Power of No

Christie Todd Whitman and Clive Crook have great articles today taking the GOP to task for not offering real alternative plans on climate change and health care. There is much to agree with and I can basically say to both Whitman and Crook, "hear, hear!"

But as important as I believe it is for the Republicans to put forth some credible ideas on various issues, I am coming to the conclusion that at least at present the GOP will not come up with real solutions on health care or climate change.

It's not because Republicans in Congress do not care about these issues, it's that it is more beneficial to the party to obstruct than it is to find solutions, that it is more important to throw heat than it is light.

I should say off top that such tactics are not limited to Republicans. Democrats have done it in the past and will do it again. In fact what makes it bipartisan is the fact that both parties rely on technology that can enforce people's views and make it hard to offer alternatives or compromise.

For the Republicans, it makes sense to oppose health care reform. Why? Part of the answer lies in how the nature of politics and technology have changed. We highly partisan blogs that scream at people and use shock to gin up the base and drive more readers to their site. We also have organizations, like Club for Growth that can put of out mass email alerts against any representative deemed not conservative enough.

The fact of the matter is, it is a lot easier to talk about "government health care" and fears of "socialism" than it is to get a bunch of representatives in smoke-filled rooms (or non-smoking these days) and hammer out a deal.

Centrists worked well in an age where there was broad consenus on the issues, but differences in how to get the done. But technology has created a world where we can live in a cocoon and get all our views from partisan sites. We no longer agree on the issues like we once did, and woe to the one that tries to forge a compromise.

It would be nice if Republicans offered some real solutions on issues like health care. But that's what a centrist like me wants, not the hard core partisan that will campaing fervently for GOP candidates. What they want to do is obstruct the Obama plan and talk about how bad it is. Which of course, is much more fun. Let's be honest: it's a lot more interesting for many to talk about the evils of health care reform and the trail of dead people left in the wake of socialized medicine, than it is to crank out a plan that might be better than what the President is putting forth. It's not very sexy, and it might mean dealing with those icky Democrats.

Now, I should state, that I don't like the current plan which includes a public option. I do think it is a backdoor way into single-payer care. But I'm less interested in screaming "Socialism!" than I am in finding alternative solutions. Which is why I am supportive of those six Senators from both parties who are cranking away at getting a workable compromise. It's not sexy. It will not make the blood boil. But it might just solve an issue that has been a problem for America for decades.

What can be done to combat the Power of No? I don't know. I don't think it means doing away with blogs, but centrists will have learn how make us of some of the same technology that has been used to divide and find ways to knit us back together. Instead of having blogs where people shout, have blogs that can be forums where we can learn to respectfully disagree and then seek to find a solution that can work for everybody. It might mean building a centrist network that can help support centrist lawmakers as they try to do the people's business.

Will this happen? I don't know. The Power of No is strong, but I have to belive the Power Yes is stronger still.

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