Wednesday, August 26, 2009
New guest blogger
Hello, “blog” readers. I’m David Broder, Dean of the Washington Press Corps and holder of the Vital Center Chair for Advanced Consensus Studies at the Institute of Moderation, and I’m filling in for Michael while he goes for his MRI. Here’s my column for today:
The word this week is that leading Democrats are thinking about trying to pass health care reform without Republican support. But if they remember their recent history, they’ll think twice before adopting the politics of rashness.
The year was 1993, and a charismatic outsider came to Washington with a plan for reform. But not long after taking the oath of office, he embarked on a path of destruction that shredded the bipartisan comity this city had enjoyed for the previous twelve years. By proposing a budget that increased taxes in a recession, Bill Clinton lost any hope of picking up support from across the aisle—and, sure enough, his budget passed by the narrowest of margins, with Al Gore, divisive as always, breaking a 50-50 tie in the Senate. In the House, the “budget reconciliation” passed by a similarly unimpressive 219-213.
The rest, of course, is history. Clinton’s budget bankrupted the Treasury, stifled growth, and led to massive unemployment, just as his critics claimed it would. The “great leap backward,” as Newt Gingrich called it, returned America to the dark days of the late 1970s, with runaway inflation, skyrocketing crime, and disrespectful young people listening to their grungy “music.” Within a year, Americans turned on the man who had promised them “hope” but gave them only partisan warfare and gridlock, and Republicans took control of Congress after decades in the minority. With them came a renewed, and badly needed, commitment to civility in national politics.
It is said that history repeats itself—louder the second time for those who weren’t listening. The record is clear that “Democrat Only” bills are a recipe for disaster. On a day when the nation mourns the passing of Ted Kennedy, Democrats would do well to heed the gracious words of John McCain: Kennedy, the lion of the Senate, “had a unique way of sitting down with the parties at a table and making the right concessions.” Indeed, without Kennedy’s sense of bipartisan good will, we would not have the landmark No Child Left Behind Act today. Now as in 1993, Democrats stand at a crossroads: they can play the kind of slash-and-burn politics that will turn America into a one-party state, or they can do the right thing—and make the right concessions.