Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act Would Not Pass in the Present Political Environment

Now that President Barack Obama’s historic healthcare reform initiative has been passed by a sharply divided Congress, the struggle to approve the most ambitious expansion of the social safety net in a generation has revealed the difficulty of passing landmark legislation in a partisan environment.Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act would not pass in the present political environment.

Writing in the New York Times, Timothy Egan makes the point that “None of the great bipartisanship triumphs of the past – Social Security, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act — would have a prayer in the present environment.  That’s not how we do politics in 2010.  We talk, loudly, only to like-minded partisans, and everyone else be damned.  If (Congressman) Kucinich had gone ahead as promised with a ‘no’ vote, it would not have an asterisk next to it. It would simply be another no, putting him in league with Michele Bachmann, John Boehner and other congressional defenders of the costliest, most inefficient and least accessible healthcare system in the Western world.”

Egan expands on his point, noting that “Reality is always a problem for purists.  On the liberal side, many fail to comprehend that they are a distinct minority, stuck for years at around 19 percent of the public.  When a liberal like Obama gets elected, he has to govern as a centrist for the simple reason that four-fifths of the country does not share his basic political outlook.  Smart liberals understand this.”

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