Thursday, September 26, 2013

On Losing

So this one is about why Republicans on the Hill are acting the way they are acting right now.  

I worked on the Hill for years.  Specifically, for years I worked on the Hill as a Democrat in a government ruled entirely by Republicans.  For years.  

And while I, like most Democrats, hated the 2000 election, and it made me question the fundamentals of American politics, that loss was nothing like getting up every day, going to work, and losing all day long.  You think, when you work on the Hill, that you are doing a noble thing, trying to get things done for the American people.  And you are.  But sometimes, in a democratic republic, your job on the Hill is to go in, make your very best argument, your very best case to your colleagues and the American people, and lose.  Every day.  That's rough.

It's rough when you think you know what is best for the country, believe it whole-heartedly, and just lose, because either you didn't make your case well enough, or you didn't organize well enough, or you were out-spent, or you just did not win enough elections to have the power to do what you fervently believe is best.

But here's the thing: that's the gig.  

That's the job you sign up for when you work in politics in a representative democracy.  Sometimes, you lose.  And sometimes, for years, you go in every day, work hard, and still lose.  Every day.

So when I see Republicans on the Hill doing everything they can think of to "win" something, I understand it.  But they need to take a step back.  Elections, as Senator McCain so eloquently said, have consequences.  And they should.  But when you lose in politics, it's not like losing in baseball.  You don't get to get up the next day and try to win and be able to win.  You have to compromise and work together and plan and wait.  But we believe in democracy, and the people get to choose.

If it makes you feel better, Republicans, Obamacare isn't what we wanted.  "Obamacare" is really based on a Heritage Foundation (very conservative think tank) design.  We want single payer.  Probably even the president wanted single payer.  And that's not what we could do.  So we compromised.  And the result is a very large law with a lot of very good parts like making it so women don't have to pay more for insurance just because we're women.  And making sure you can't be denied health insurance for preexisting conditions.  Those are widely-supported ideas.  Bipartisan ones, even.  And the underlying Obamacare framework is market-driven, which should be attractive to most conservatives (in fact it was, before it was called "Obamacare").  Just ask the actual Socialist in the Senate, Bernie Sanders.  He'll tell you he wanted single-payer, not "Obamacare."  

And if the prognosticators on the right are correct, then people won't like Obamacare.  I doubt it.  I suspect that the real reason there is such an urgency in the drive to stop Obamacare is the underlying knowledge that it will be popular, once people get past their pre-conceived notions and actually experience a broader health insurance system with more choices and more competition.  And it should, provided that conservatives don't succeed in convincing people not to join, drive down health care costs, considerably.  That may take a few years.  But it will probably happen.  Even Senator Cruz says that it will be popular in less-guarded situations.

But that isn't the most important part.  The most important part is that in a democracy, sometimes it is the job of legislators and their staff to lose.  And to do it graciously, for the good of the country.  Fighting a debt limit increase or shutting the government down has real consequences - wide-reaching ones - for our economy and for our people.  So we shouldn't do that.  

Put on those big girl pants and lose graciously, my Republican friends.  God-willing, you will live to fight another day.  And we need you, too.  The country needs all of us to do our best to work better together and find common ground.


  1. It feels like all I see from Republicans these days is that 'they are trying to "win" something.' We are seeing it now with Senator Cruz, and we saw it just a few months ago with SB-1 in Texas. Didn't we learn any lessons at all? I don't think winning at all costs is a healthy attitude for anyone, much less politicians.
    Furthermore, we tell our children to overlook minor faults on people to focus on the merits of the person; why can't politicians do the same for bills? It seems like they (of both parties) take up arms against a single piece just to kill the larger whole. (Of course I know there are tons or riders tacked on to just about any legislation, so it is never a clear-cut issue.) So while they may get what they want, precisely no one actually benefits from the good that was supposed to get accomplished. That is sad.

    I especially liked the second paragraph; that must have been hard sometimes to keep your passion for the job alive and to keep plugging away. That's why not everyone is cut out for a career like that. I admire that it was yours.

  2. Thanks :-) I'm hard-selling it here, there are fun days, even when you are losing, and you can do some good things, even when you don't have the power to to the big things. It's just that I think the more machiavellian "win at all costs" side of politics has been "in" since Newt came on the scene, and it's egged on by the partisan nature of the news right now. And it's time for that to stop.