Reconciliation in America?

Author says a large gulf separates Democrats and Republicans on healthcare reform.

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, centre, has lead the Republican camp in opposing Obama's healthcare reform package [EPA]

    Reconciliation is one of those words that sounds great when used in another country.

    Right-wing whites along with the rest of the world embraced South Africa's peace and reconciliation process as a way to put apartheid crimes on the record without a punitive witch-hunt that would intensify racial and political tensions.

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu chaired a panel to hear evidence without the power to imprison or execute wrongdoers. 

    The idea was to disclose the truth while attempting to bring a dangerously polarised society together. Forgiveness, it was thought, could help the country move on.

    In the US, at least these days, reconciliation has another meaning and purpose: to allow legislators to find compromises in enacting legislation by reconciling Senate and House versions of the bill.

    Republicans used this tool to pass the Reagan budgets in the 1980s and Bush tax cuts in 2004 that benefited the wealthy and arguably helped bankrupt the economy.

    Their legislative manoeuvre was justified as a necessary method of getting done what they wanted done. There was no moralising about it; no shame.

    Now that the Democrats are talking about reconciling the Senate and House versions of the Health Care Reform Bill so that it can be passed by majority vote many of these same Republicans are up in arms charging treason and worse.

    Suddenly, when a tactic they regularly employed is about to be used against them, the Republicans are on the ramparts screaming about a betrayal of the Constitution.

    Watered-down bill

    Never mind that more than a year has been spent debating and watering down so-called reforms including the junking of a wildly popular public option.

    Never mind that way more than a majority of Senators and a majority of the House backed the measure with certain differences, of course.

    To the Republican bluster uber alles squad, the only acceptable remedy would be to  "start over," as if the election of 2008 never happened. It is always their way or the highway.

    For them, the political jihad comes first and killing the bill and all healthcare reform is the crusade du jour. They have wrapped themselves in their message points and just love the drone of their echo chamber.

    Talking to wallpaper

    Obama has made healthcare reform the central issue of his presidency [AFP]

    It was rather obvious at the White House Health care Summit on February 25 that Obama was talking to the wallpaper.

    It was rather telling that the Obamacrats have been unwilling to leave what they perceived as the political safety of the centre, and unwilling to use what power they have to push their agenda through.

    Perhaps they feared incurring the wrath of Fox News and middle of the Road DINOS (Democrats In Name Only) who are totally integrated into the system, if not, bought off, or at least leased, by the insurance lobby. They live in a gut-free zone.

    They may pay lip service for the need for change but lack the spine and will to fight for it. They had already disregarded and neglected those in their own ranks pushing for Single Payer, Medicare for all etc.

    They bombed a public option the way the Israelis want us to treat Iran. (Israel, by the by, has a government-backed health care system.)

    But one cannot totally blame Barack Obama, the US president, for this muddle of the middle, because of the way Wall Street bought Congress. What is troublesome, however, is his continuing stated hope against hope that somehow he can use rationality and logic to appeal to the illogical and irrational.

    At the same time, he worked on the Hill and must know who he is dealing (or not) dealing with. (Yes, I remember Donald Rumsfeld's dicta, "you go to war with the army you have.")

    Politics and dicey parts

    This is a political game that has more dicey parts than a Toyota. The partisans on the right project more certainty in their convictions and in their demagoguery. They have a big noise machine to drive them on - even if it is to the abyss.

    As one of my readers noted, they seem programmed by Fox News. (In the old days media outlets reported what politicians say; today some are browbeating them into what to say.)

    There is little genuine care for the implementation of a system that guarantees health care for all.

    There can be no reconciliation between these two "sides" - or, should we say wings on the same plane, even if there may be more similarities here than appears.

    Most of the Democrats have a stake in serving the system; few have the independence or willingness to go to the mattresses or stand up for what they say they claim, at times, to believe in.

    They would not be politicians if they were not wedded to wheeling and dealing and perpetual compromise. It is their waffling that also gives Republicans the encouragement to take a harder and harder line.

    They believe the Democrats will give in - and they may be right.

    The Democrats know a hotly-contested election is coming next November and are banking on their incumbency and money raising capacity to insure re-election. They do not like ideological battles maybe in part because they do not know what they think most of the time.

    They want to please their voters, not challenge them,

    The media bigs know that interest in politics has declined except among the most politically aligned. They know that to build bigger audiences, they have to pour oil on the flames and amplify the confrontation,

    Manufactured "showdowns"

    So how is one to reconcile our vast needs and a political system that cannot address them?

    Our economy appears to be in free fall and existing policies appear to fall short of remedying the situation.

    In the meantime, reconciliation is stressed as we watch politicians who want to posture and lecture each other rather than organise their supporters and defend their programs.

    If healthcare reform disintegrates, if financial reform flames out, if the consumer protection agency is deep-sixed or pushed into a back office in Tim Geithner's Treasury Department, many of Obama's backers will have fewer reasons for reconciling themselves with a Titanic that seems to have nowhere to go but down,

    Will this lead to a new political initiative? If not now, when? Help me reconcile all this, help me now.

    News Dissector Danny Schechter edits His new film, Plunder treats the financial crisis as a crime story. ( Comments to

    Al Jazeera is not responsible for the content of external sites.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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