Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Health-Care Reform Ambivalence

Johnathan Cohn of the New Republic describes an "enthusiasm gap" with the Left and health-care reform:
The news about health care is a little confusing these days. While polls show that Americans still support the key elements of health care reform that President Obama and his allies are trying to enact, there have been numerous reports of conservative activists showing up at congressional town halls across the country, protesting those same plans with an energy not matched by the other side.

The imbalance may simply reflect the media's preoccupation with conflict and confrontation. Liberal rallies in favor of reform have garnered no similar attention, although they've attracted hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of people. But I suspect the enthusiasm gap is at least partly real--that the hate for the plans moving through Congress runs much stronger than the love, that the people fighting to stop these bills feel more intensely, and have more determination, than those fighting to pass them.
Currently, all the passion is on the Right. Can the Left provide a countervailing force?
If the possibility of lesser reform doesn't motivate liberals, then maybe something else will: the possibility of no reform. Twice in the last few decades, once during the Nixon era and then again during the Clinton years, liberals largely shunned compromise efforts at universal coverage because they didn't live up to progressive ideals. But holding out didn't lead to better legislation. It led to twenty years of trying to rebuild the momentum for reform, followed by a debate over proposals that are, if anything, less sweeping than their predecessors.
Will the possibility of no reform ignite the Left? Or, is the greatest check on the Left the Left itself?