Sunday, May 18, 2014

The long run

No, the blog is not dead. Apologies for the lengthy absences. I'm a little busy at the moment. But I wanted to post this item below that I drafted a while back.

For whatever reason, this blog post by Andrew Sullivan hit a few notes with me and I wanted to link to it here. On the occasion of a surprisingly positive deadline result in sign-ups for eligibility for the Affordable Care Act in the U.S., aka "Obamacare," Sullivan noted it as one more stage of Obama's presidential success:
Last fall, I argued that Obama’s presidency, already historic in significant ways, would become as influential as Reagan’s if two things happened: if the ACA stuck and American entered an era of near-universal healthcare; and if the negotiations with Iran led to an end of sanctions and a controlled Iranian nuclear capability. Both would be generational game-changers – one in domestic policy, the other in foreign affairs. I’ve also long argued that Obama’s entire presidency makes no sense if you try and judge it by its ability to spike the polls in any given news cycle.

So where are we? Too soon to tell on Iran. But after a clear, self-inflicted disaster – the website’s debut – we’ve seen a classic Obama pattern. The fail is replaced by a dogged, persistent, relentless attempt at repair. I’d argue that the competence behind the repair of the site and the revival of the ACA’s fortunes has been as striking as the original incompetence. And we do not and should not judge a president by his mistakes; the critical judgment is in how he responds to those mistakes. As Dick Cheney might put it, the results speak for themselves:

In 2017 there will be, according to the CBO, 36 million Americans newly covered by ACA through exchange policies or Medicaid. That’s a huge number of voters. You have to live in Foxland to think that any great number of these will see themselves as victims of coercion rather than beneficiaries of a terrific entitlement. The second reason comes from the ramshackle, Heath Robinson (Am.E: Rube Goldberg) nature of the Act. This makes it so hard to understand what is going on. More important, it means that any remotely feasible replacement will also be hugely complicated. Simple repeal and reversion to the status quo ante will be as as unacceptable to the electorate as single-payer.

Worse, the Republicans are now in the position of nit-picking, cold-water dousing and general negativity that tends not to wear well over time. Once again, it seems to me, they have misjudged this president’s long game.
We’ve been here so many times before with this president – when he seems temporarily becalmed, inert, unable or unwilling to seize every moment. But over the long run, you see the virtues of persistence, relentlessness and pragmatic advance. The opes he once inspired may be dimmed or dashed right now; but in the cold light of day, they shouldn’t be. Like the slow, excruciating accumulation of delegates in the epic 2008 primary campaign, Obama never puts it away until he puts it away. But it’s coming. And more and more people are beginning to see it.

It's challenging to be dogged and with an eye on the long run in today's Twitter-driven, 24-7 media cycle/era. Whatever you think of Obama, and how far the Americans should have gone in the first place with their health care reform (say we Canadians, home of a single-payer system), the Affordable Care Act is achieving health care coverage success for those opting in to it despite all the self-inflicted problems involved in trying to get it off the ground.

For the much more conservative America to have finally achieved this progressive victory in health care legislation is inspiring. It marks a measured but solid success given the constraints faced by this President (which seem to grow worse by the day in the U.S.). So I think it says something about how to be successful in getting things done in this modern political era. Be dogged, don't sweat the mistakes, carry on regardless. Keep navigating the political terrain with an eye on the long run.

It also says something about the character required to persevere. The very human things that are suggested here and are required in order for a leader to push on with an agenda despite mistakes that have to be overcome. Obama has those qualities. Look around the Canadian scene. See any leaders who have it? For better or worse? I do. And I'm hoping for the good ones in the long run.