Saturday, January 16, 2016

Clinton's utopian health care dreams are obviously politically impossible

An endless parade of starry-eyed utopians have spent the last several days advocating for Hillary Clinton's health care plan. As a lifelong progressive, I am of course very sympathetic towards any plan to bring affordable health coverage to all Americans. But as a savvy, pragmatic realist with both of my feet firmly on the ground, I fear that Clinton's lofty idealism is leading Democrats astray - because it is completely obvious that she will never be able to sign her reforms into law.

Here's the kind of thing Clintonites are saying. Harold Pollack writes that "Progressives should still push for basic reforms that improve our current system." Digby writes, "Most of our big social welfare programs have been implemented incrementally, even Social Security, and I cannot see how this would be any different under the current circumstances." And even Clinton herself is claiming that she will "build on the successes of the Affordable Care Act and work to fix some of the glitches".

This kind of wishful optimism may play well on the campaign trail for Clinton, but it will obviously - obviously - crash and burn as soon as it gets anywhere near the Republican Congress.

Because if the past eight years have taught us anything at all, they've taught us that the GOP has settled on absolute obstruction as its best and most reliable political strategy. They have every single incentive to stick with this and zero reason to abandon this. They are not going to cut deals with Hillary no matter how nicely she asks and no matter how hard to the right she tacks, because they do not want to hand her any policy victories. They have spent literally thousands of days proving this point with Obama.

I wish things were different! Like so many Clinton supporters, I wish that we lived in a world where Republicans would respect democratic mandates, pick their battles, and negotiate. I also wish for world peace, and the abolition of private property, and all of those other naive dreams that you have when you are a child.

But part of growing up and maturing and becoming a wonkish politics-knower involves learning to work in the real world. That means accepting hard facts that we may find unpleasant, disagreeable, and inconvenient for our aspirations. I hope that one day we will live in a world where passing incremental progressive health care reforms through a Republican Congress is even remotely possible, and not just a happy fantasy. But the stakes are too high for us to pretend like we're already there.