During last Friday's On Point, David Gergen had some interesting points to make during the show's "Week in the News" discussion. He was speaking about last week's vitriolic-ly expressed opposition to the passage of the health-care reform bill. Were the threats, taunts, and thrown bricks simply partisan politics run amuck or were they inappropriate expressions of something deeper?
David Gergen made the point that, in modern times, all the federal government's sweeping social reforms -- Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, and the landmark Civil Rights Bills of 1965 and 1966 -- have been passed when Democrats had a substantial Congressional majority. But, Gergen pointed out, they were also all passed with significant bipartisan support.
Health care reform, however, was passed without bipartisan support. The GOP walked through the vote in oppositional lockstep. And, Gergen pointed out, historically when this kind of partisan divide has happened in Congress, people, sadly, have tended to become inflamed. And those of us who don't become inflamed over the actions of Congress, become alarmed by the behavior of those who do.
Mr. Gergen went on to caution that we do need to remember that "there’s a deep philosophical divide between these two parties. One [the Republicans] has a view of private enterprise and a self-reliant view which is much different from the Democratic view that the government is there to help people who can’t help themselves. And [that it] ought to embrace those people.”
This, of course, is something I've heard countless times. Yet it was interesting to think about this "deep philosophical divide" in the specific context of last week's passage of health-care reform and the angry reaction to it.
Some very simple questions came to mind, that I think need to be answered simply and directly before we go back to our customary political posturing.
- Is health care a fundamental right? If someone gets sick, do they have a right to proper medical care? Or should medical treatment be the private privilege of those who can pay for it, personally or through insurance?
- If health care is a fundamental right, who's responsible for providing it? Who's job is it to see that sick people get the medical treatment they need?
- How does this all fit in with the "deep philosophical divide" between our two American political parties?