Column by David Reynolds
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I can’t wait for 2010! I can’t wait to see how 2009 will turn out. Yep, we are going into overtime. Too much is still up in the hot air of politics to be settled in twelve short months. Sure, a few minor clashes have been settled, but we won’t mess with those. For the new year our focus will remain on the real war and which party will win its big bet.
So keep the bubbly on ice. Don’t pop any corks. The parties are far from over. The Republicans and Democrats are fighting a life and death struggle. The outcome will not only determine your life, but, more importantly, as life is viewed in our Nation’s Capital, which party will whither away and die.
Of course, there could be a truce to settle this mess. Most Americans want that. However, that’s unlikely. We don’t seem to count anymore except on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. During the rest of the year we are being hit from both sides, tossed between the soft left and the hard right, while just trying to stay afloat in a sea of political and cultural changes.
Let’s zero in on Washington because that’s the center of the storm. After all, New York is still reeling from the crash of ‘08 and Hollywood is still selling trash to those who have not reached voting age. So we can forget the fading influence of tinsel town and Wall Street, but not DC. Big Brother lives there. And he knows what is best for you.
To understand Washington politics – at least since January 20, 2009 – you need to head for Chicago. A study of how the lake city conducts its business will tell you what river city is up to. Which as we all know is of little good.
Chicago manages to keep participatory democracy outside its city limits with two hard and fast moves. First, it rams legislation through so fast that citizens never know what hit them until their pockets are picked. For example, Mr. Obama’s home town recently approved a billion dollar parking measure over a weekend. In their new home, the boys from Chicago have perfected their moves. They recently called for a snowstorm to cover up their tracks on a key procedural vote and then held the final vote on Christmas Eve. These kids are smart. You have to admire their tactics, if not their objective. Which, of course, is to keep crime off the streets and in the halls of government.
Oh, yes, Chicago’s second political principle. Actually, it is one that can be found elsewhere. My cynical friends say it is found everywhere. It is this: A honest politician is one who, once bought, stays bought.
Don’t you wish Virginia’s two democratic senators were more honest and played politics the Chicago way? Just look at what one senator from Louisiana and one from Nebraska received. Enough payola to virtually wipe out Virginia’s budget shortfall. Our kids will be paying for these bribes. And what kickback will you and I receive? The pleasure of paying more and receiving less. Of course, I’m still referring to health-care.
So Jim and Mark, get smart, play the game the Chicago way. Play “The Price Is Right.” Virginia schools need more money and before spring arrives our winter roads will have potholes.
Washington, however, does it this way. It lines up lobbyists. It doesn’t matter whether these trade associations (their name on K Street) are in agreement with their dues paying members. The objective is get a deal to be paid for by the American taxpayer – and their grandchildren. In exchange the association gives its endorsement. HillaryCare failed to do this; ObamaCare has not. So it will pass. Now you know why no one has asked the obvious question in the health-care debate: What is best for the patient?
There is something else you should know about Washington’s strange ways. Few in our capital think very hard on public issues. Ask almost anyone in river city about their views and you will seldom hear a discussion of pro’s and con’s. Rather, you will be told (a) who is for and who is against the legislation and (b) its chance of passage. That’s it! That’s the full extent of inside the Beltway thinking. I’ve heard more thoughtful discussions inside the Lexington Coffee Shop than during my 27 years in Washington. Well, almost.
Back to the policy mistake of the century. Okay, you’re an optimist and what Harry Reid did on Christmas Eve was not that big a mistake because the century has 90 years to go. Or Harry can be excused because he thought of himself as Santa Claus giving away good health to good girls and boys.
Sorry, I’m not buying. We have mixed Chicago and Washington politics and created a process that can not be described in this newspaper. So we will call it a pig in a poke. Still not something to have along with your first-aid kit.
Discouraged? Don’t be. There a way out of this whole bloody mess. It is simple. If we practice better democracy, our doctors will be able to practice better medicine.