Why they are worlds apart

Michael Carollo | Contributing Writer

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In short, it’s the Republicans.  I know that answer sounds excessively partisan, but I do think the facts speak for themselves.  The primary cause of the polarization in Washington is because the Republican Party over the last half century has moved further and further right to the point where it’s nigh impossible to do big things.


Nothing exemplifies this trend more clearly than health care. In 1945 Truman proposed a national health plan for all Americans, and his ideas developed in Congress as the second variation of the W-M-D bill.  That didn’t get anywhere in part because of little support on the Republican side, along with the fierce opposition from AMA on the claims that it was socialized medicine.  Almost three decades later in 1971, Nixon proposed a plan based around employer coverage, but that didn’t gain traction because Democrats like Ted Kennedy, under the pressure of labor, weren’t quite ready to give up on a national plan and Nixon found little appetite in his party for the issue.  By time Clinton got to office, Democrats had given up on a national plan, and Clinton’s plan, like Nixon’s, relied heavily on employers to expand coverage.  This was met with complete opposition by Republicans and they, led by then Senator John Chafee (R-RI), released a more conservative plan of their own in 1993 (more on that in a moment) during the debate.  Clinton’s effort failed, once more because of little-to-no Republican movement towards his proposals, and nothing was done about health care until 2010.  Finally, this time, after so much wrangling and feet-dragging, a big bill for health care was passed – with no Republican support.  Sure, Republicans proposed plans of their own during the debate, but none controlled costs as well, or insured as many people, as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). 


And where does ACA sit on the idealogical scale?  To put it one way, it looks largely similar to the conservative planned passed under Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and the planned Chafee proposed in 1993.  The Democrats had moved to the right – again – to pick up Republican support and – again – the Republicans balked and moved further right.


The debate for health care reform in this country has moved so far to the right that the Democrats are left defending a conservative piece of legislation, leaving Republicans with nothing big they can propose to solve our nation’s health care woes.  Where’s the evidence for this?  Let me ask readers the following question: Why is that in the time they have controlled the House, Republicans have voted to repeal ACA thirty-three times but have not once passed a plan of their own?  Why is Mitt Romney so vague on the details when it comes to the issue of health care?  Because, and this is the truth: The Affordable Care Act is the most conservative piece of legislation you can pass to hold down costs and to make sure as many people are insured as possible – while keeping to the idea that all Americans should have access to affordable health care – without massive government intervention.  And by that I mean a robust public option or a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.


Health care, environment, immigration, taxes – you name it – the Republicans have shifted a considerable distance to the right on all issues.


During the Republican primary presidential debate on August 11, 2011, the following question was proposed to the candidates: Would any candidate at the debate accept a 10:1 budget deal in favor of spending cuts to tax increases to reduce the federal deficit and stem the rising national debt?  All the candidates – all of them – raised their hands in the negative.  What reasonable person in his or her right mind wouldn’t accept a 10:1 deal in their favor?


How are Democrats supposed to work with people like that?