Edward R. Murrow, regarded as one of the greatest journalists in history, once said, “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” Government, at times self-serving and corrupt, needs supervision and a well-informed, active public to keep it in order. Passivity allows the government to be swayed by special interests and lobbyists, whose agendas can be contrary to what the American public wants.
For example, a CBS/NY Times poll released Sept. 25 indicated that 65 percent of Americans polled support the public option. Yet amid the special interest commercials, intelligent advocacy and opposition to the public option, and the general hype and fear-mongering from the right over the return of the red scare, the Senate Finance Committee voted 13-8 against Senator Jay Rockefeller’s public option amendment on Tuesday.
Obviously, the Republicans nixed the public option amendment — and let’s not kid ourselves, they voted purely on ideological and political bases. But, surprisingly, Democrats Baucus, Lincoln, Nelson, Carper and Conrad joined with Republicans to vote against Rockefeller’s public option amendment.
Why would these Democrats break rank to vote with Republicans, whose major concerns have both feet sunk in the disgusting mire of lies?
According to the poll I mentioned above, 65 percent of Americans polled support the public option to compete with private insurers, so the five Democrats’ decisions to vote against public option health care appears to be political suicide. Right? Well, yes, if their constituents are the American people.
And I must say, while I watched Senators Conrad, Lincoln, Baucus, Carper and Nelson vote nay along with those who have sold their souls to fight hard against the public option, my proud Democrat, government-loving self felt profoundly sad for this country.
These Democrats only voted with the Republicans because they believe health care reform might not pass the Senate, and they don’t want to be on the unlucky side of the debate when the gavel drops. They’re making sure that their political future is secure if the public option fails, despite the fact that the majority of Americans want the public option and 45,000 human beings a year die from lack of insurance, according to a study by Harvard Medical School.
Tuesday was a dark day for the principle that government is for the people.
But on The Ed Show on MSNBC Tuesday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, whose amendment was defeated in the Senate Finance Committee, said that the public option is not dead yet. He believes that the fact that he got 8 votes for his amendment is a sign that the public option is moving in the right direction toward being passed on the Senate floor.
And I don’t think that he’s simply being optimistic. The more support that public option has on record the stronger it is, because it forces conservative Democrats who haven’t made a significant decision either way to make a preliminary choice before they vote.
Roy Sekoff of the Huffington Post said on The Ed Show (which, truly, I do not watch often. Ed reminds me of a liberal Glen Beck, which is just as annoying) that before Tuesday, Mr. Baucus was not on record, and the fact that he was forced to go on record is a positive step. What Democrats need to do now is to rally their side of the isle and make sure that every possible member is on-board for the public option. That’s going to be a huge test of how we wield our majority.
Health care reform has a long way to go, and unless the Democrats use reconciliation which allows a bill to pass by a simple majority, the public option may very well fail.
However it turns out, Tuesday was a disappointing reminder that it’s not just the right who tends to serve their own interests, it’s also those on the left.
I really hope that when health care reform is passed what Albert Camus said about government is not true of the United States: “By definition, a government has no conscience. Sometimes it has a policy, but nothing more.”
Stephanie England is an English senior and Mustang Daily political columnist.