23 March 2010

Perfect, Enemy of the Good?

During the heat of our nation's public discourse over the necessary ingredients of health insurance reform, I remember Rep. Anthony Weiner admonishing conservatives and progressives alike with the catchy bromide
Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good
Many progressives, including Rep. Weiner, held our noses in support the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, HR 3590, because many of us relish the opportunity to solve complicated policy issues and then marry them to optimal policy solutions. Progressives champion equal access to health care for all citizens (universal health care).

Progressives sought a pragmatic single-payer system of financing universal health care (via a single insurance pool). Medicare is an example of a single-payer system for seniors. Australia, Canada, the UK, and Taiwan are examples of countries that have single-payer universal health care systems.

So progressives sought essentially the extension of Medicare to the entire US population with single-payer financing. Not particularly radical. We're not there yet, but groundwork is laid. Progressives have had to swallow many sub-optimal compromises (e.g., no public option to compete with the wild-west that is the private insurance industry).

By Speaker Pelosi's final gavel strike on HR 3590, progressives and a few pro-life Democrats we're the only leaders capable of compromise. I mocked Rep. Bart Stupak's inclusion of over-reaching abortion language (i.e., the Stupak-Pitts Amendment) by posting "Stupak is as Stupak does  ~Forrest Gump (D LA)" to the blogosphere. But, give dude his props for compromising for the common good by the final vote tally.

Part of getting shit done in Congress is a willingness to occasionally bend principles for the common good. Progressives, in particular, bent over backwards to take it up the fudge hole while voting to pass a sub-optimal bill (a bill that further enriches insurance companies by mandating a new pool of customers). Thankfully HR 3590 offers modest consumer protections and insurance coverage for millions of uninsured people (whose health care heretofore consisted of one option - costly emergency room visits covered by taxpayers).

I wikipedia'd Rep. Wiener's bromide. It turns out the French Enlightenment writer and philosopher Voltaire said
Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.
which means
The perfect is the enemy of the good.
After many overtures from President Obama and the Democratic leadership, Republicans chose not to participate in shaping health insurance reform. The Republican strategy was to obstruct. It was a strategy that, by definition, eschews problem-solving in favor of a pure political play. It was a strategy that back-fired when it eventually failed to torpedo forward progress.

From the sidelines, we watched Republicans slinging mud and voting against their own ideas. In a perfect Republican world, Republicans wouldn't have to be concerned about the common good. During the creation and emergence of this historical legislation, Republicans created an impenetrable cocoon around their perfect world and refused to budge an inch.

Pragmatism eventually trumps dogmatism. Progress is inevitable.

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