Dear President Obama,
You appear to have decided that the ultimate lesson to be drawn from the defeat of Bill Clinton's health care plan was that it led directly to losing the house and senate the following year. Therefore, it seems, you are more than happy to push any health care bill through Congress so that you will not have to face the same destructive voices crying that you failed in a central campaign promise. This you believe will prevent your support from eroding further and the GOP's resurgence from taking root.
I believe, Mr. President, that you are wrong on several counts
First of all, to argue that it was entirely the result of the health care debacle that President Clinton lost the Congress is to fail to remember the political reality of the early 90's. Clinton was only elected in the first place because Ross Perot split the vote; he did not have a majority of the electorate behind him, and a large number of so-called "Reagan Democrats" still created a de facto splinter party within the ranks of the left, folks who were far worse than DINO's or even Blue Dogs, since they actually voted for the other guys.
There was not very far for Clinton to fall in order to lose Congress.
Further, his majorities were not as large as yours. And he was weakened from the start by the perception that he was a liar; remember "Slick Willy"? Further, he had used up a lot of political capital on the gays in the military fiasco that turned into the DADT fiasco. And then of course there was the anti-Hillary contingent: the fact that she was in charge of the health care task force provided two strikes against it before it had begun its work.
So he lost seats the next year--as pretty much every incumbent's party does in the off year elections. (Newt and co. promised things they never delivered, BTW, and it was they who next lost favor.)
So you (probably wisely, though for personal reasons I detest the fact) pushed GLBT issues back several months in order to get the monumental economic and health care bills through Congress. Fine. And the Stim passed--maybe not as big as it ought to have been, maybe not with the focuses many of us may have liked, maybe with still too much emphasis on the banks and companies on Wall St that caused the problem in the first place--but it passed, and slowly, slowly, as the money starts to flow outward, things may start to change. (I do wish that you had had the guts to try a BOTTOM-UP stimulus, though; applying those billions of dollars to paying off consumer indebtedness and shoring up bad mortgages would have done more to ameliorate the economy than all of the bank bailouts in the world.)
But now, with the most important bill of your early presidency, your vision is failing you. You have allowed the minority to control the process as well as the argument. You have allowed them to frame this as yet another of their absurdist fantasies, and you have done far too little to mitigate the spread of lies. And you have allowed the creation of the bill itself to be in the hands of conservative Democrats and even Republicans--people who are intrinsically skeptical of true change--instead of in the hands of those who want what the people of this country voted for last November, and what you promised us: change we can believe in.
Bipartisanship is a wonderful ideal, but what kind of "negotiation" can you have with a party that will not give in to anything but their way? And even if they were being reasonable--which all but one or two of them have long since forgotten how to be--what kind of negotiation begins with giving away the best bargaining chips? You and Senator Baucus removed single-payer from the table before anything even began, allowing the GOP to concentrate all of its efforts into painting the completely benign "public option" as if it were the reconstruction of the Soviet Union here in America.
Instead of a "robust public option," then, we appear to be heading toward a bill that only the investors of the major insurance companies will love. Well, they and the GOP, who will, essentially, have gotten their way.
Mr. President, as you go through this final weekend before you make your too-long-awaited major speech on this issue, please keep in mind that it was not great ideas that re-elected George Bush in 2004 (even if one believes his victory to be legitimate). No, the man never had an idea to his name. What he did have, however, was an absolutely energized base. No matter how many absurdist memes had to be spread for them to support him, support him they did, in droves, because they believed in him. He gave them what he told them he would. It was terrible for the world, and even terrible for them, but they were convinced that they wanted it. And, even when he faced a Democratic congress, which should have been able to stand against him and check him, as is its Constitutional duty, he still got his way.
There are voices that you trust telling you to take what you can get. They are telling you that you will risk losing all if you end up with no bill. Mr. President, don't listen to them. This is not 1993. The world has changed. The economy has changed. The issues have changed. What will cause you to lose this time is not the lack of a bill, but the lack of a good bill.
One week ago, you spoke the eulogy for Ted Kennedy. You have the will of the majority of the American people behind you, as well as the majority of the US Congress. Do Senator Kennedy's memory proud, Mr. President. Give him, and this country, the health care bill that he fought so long to get us. Make it happen. If you demand it, we will have it. And that, Sir, will be a monumental win for both you and for the people of America