There’s a lot of invective being directed at Dennis Kucinich from those of the far left who wanted the health care reform bill “killed.” You see, up until this weekend, Representative Kucinich was a hero to them. He had voted against the initial House bill because it didn’t contain single-payer healthcare, and he was stating he was going to vote against the bill again because it didn’t contain a public option. After meeting with President Obama, and attending an HCR rally in his district with the President, he announced that he would vote for the bill. This caused the fringe to erupt in fury. They had been depending on him voting “No,” and had been holding him up as a model of principled behavior – or at least the principles that they wanted.
While they’re busily calling him names, of which “sell-out” is the mildest, the truth is it was just good politics on his part and the President’s for him to change his mind. It was a win-win situation for them. President Obama burnished his reputation as a persuader, as someone who can move someone to his point of view. The leader of the Party in fact, not just on paper. He, and Speaker Pelosi, also gained a very badly needed vote for the bill, giving Democrats a chance to not only pass this bill, but to be able to move other parts of the Party’s agenda. Representative Kucinich wins as well. It may seem like he “caved,” or “sold out,” but let’s be honest – the bill does a lot of good for people. By agreeing to vote “Yes,” he’s allowing the good parts to get through and into law. At the same time, he’s able to show himself to be a team player, reducing his chances of a primary challenge in 2012. He’s providing some cover to other Representatives to change their votes. Of greater importance, he’s now owed a favor from the President and the Speaker. Both sides, the Democratic Party, and the country benefit from this. While Representative Kucinich might have gotten some benefit by continuing to “stand firm,” the actual benefit to him and his district by changing his vote was far greater.
It’s what makes government function. Each side needs something, and after some negotiations, a compromise is determined, and both gain something from it. It’s what makes society function, and each and every one of us does this in our daily lives. We trade favors. We do a favor for someone with the expectation that at some point, there will be reciprocity. Over time, we build a web of mutual obligations.
What’s often surprising about the purists of any political persuasion is that they do not seem to grasp this concept. Demanding “all or nothing” or “my way or the highway” usually means that they end up with nothing at all. At its worst it causes a complete blocking of all action, harming themselves as well as their opponents. The recent actions of Senator Bunning in filibustering a bill was opposed by many in his own party, because necessary funding and government action which benefited their states was endangered. The people who complain the most about government inaction are often the same purists whose demands of purity from their representatives led to the the inaction in the first place.
We don’t live in a dictatorship or an absolute monarchy. We live in a democratic republic. We have a wide range of beliefs, we have differing lifestyles, and different interests. In order to make that function, we make compromises. Our elected representatives do that as well, if they’re representing us well. No, we’re not going to get everything we want. Sometimes we have to give up something to gain something else. We allow someone to have their way on one issue in return for their going our way on another. If that doesn’t happen, government locks up – nothing gets done. While that’s pleasing to some purists, the majority of us would prefer that it not happen. That’s why the purists are wrong. Representative Kucinich made the right decision – the smart decision. He looked at the overall picture, the benefits, and decided that the purist stand would not work. It wasn’t a sell-out. It was just good politics.