In the software world, the best strategy is to ship early and often. Get something out there that solves a real problem, then fill in the missing pieces and continue to improve it. Iterate. In politics, though, we often only have one chance in years or decades to get it right.
The healthcare bill passed the Senate and is on its way to becoming real, even if it’s a shadow of what it could have been. We should be thankful that we got anything — the changes do matter — but at the same time I can’t help thinking it was a missed opportunity.
Who’s to blame? I wish Democrats had fought harder; I wish they’d framed the debate correctly from the start. I still like George Lakoff’s focus on calling the public option the American Plan, but I also like John Neffinger’s point that maybe the real mistake was in not starting with a single-payer plan so that the public option would look like a moderate compromise. It feels like many Democrats were resigned to failure early on.
In an unrelated tweet a few weeks ago, from comic artist Kazu Kibuishi: “If you have a fallback, you will fall back.” My failures reflect that too. To shoot for greatness you have to put everything you’ve got into your first effort.
I keep coming back to something Hillary Clinton said in a debate with Obama early in the Democratic primaries of 2008. It struck me as so true at the time that I wrote it down:
If you do not have a plan that starts out attempting to achieve universal healthcare, you will be nibbled to death.
And that’s what happened.
After Hillary won Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island last month, I decided it was time to think less about actively supporting my own candidate, who clearly wasn’t going away, and more about the future of the Democratic Party and what it would take to come together when a nominee is chosen. I had been quick to defend Hillary on Twitter and in blog comments, but the more I considered the close race and the long month until the next primary in Pennsylvania, now finally here, the more convinced I became that a joint ticket is the answer to a unified party.
Rather than bicker with my friends who support Obama, I changed my tone to emphasize our shared values and launched a new site: “unitetheparty.com”:http://www.unitetheparty.com/. I’ve been posting there regularly since March, and hope to build a group of like-minded Democrats to write on this topic, as well as a list of supporters who want to see a joint ticket happen.
Thinking about the endgame of the race in this context provides an excellent backdrop for discussing the real issues important to voters. There’s still an opportunity to use these campaigns for good: setting the right tone against McCain and bringing awareness of the Democratic agenda to everyone.
Obama is passionate, thoughtful, centrist enough for broad appeal, and a brilliant speaker. If he’s the nominee I’ll support him fully with every bit of strength I have. There is something special about him, and it comes around rarely in a candidate.
“Dave Winer wrote”:http://www.scripting.com/stories/2008/01/08/gluedToTheTv.html: “Obama, like Carter in 1976, may be our pennance for having re-elected Bush in 2004. We’re taking the medicine we deserve for having been crazy enough to re-elect someone who was so bad for us.”
But what about Hillary? She’s part of the establishment, and I volunteered heavily for the Howard Dean campaign. Could I support someone as traditional as Hillary? As “Mike Cohen said”:http://mcdevzone.com/2008/01/08/bad-news-from-new-hampshire: “I oppose her very strongly, not only because of all the baggage she brings, but for her anti-progressive record.”
“I posted to Twitter”:http://twitter.com/manton/statuses/578006692 on election night that something had changed between the Iowa vote and New Hampshire: Hillary had found her voice, and it surprised me. Turns out she knows what is at stake. I always knew she was a fighter; after 2000 and 2004, we need the Democrats to show some backbone again. But I think she’s been underestimated even more deeply than that, in her ability to speak to the core Democratic base while drawing upon her new experience and record in the Senate that most people aren’t familiar with yet.
And then there is the woman factor. Some people will say this matters but they don’t really understand unless they have daughters of their own, daughters who will grow up and become teenagers, the defining moment of their lives, during a woman presidency. This is both personal and huge and it could spread like wildfire. For me, it tips the balance.
My family is throwing its support — our money for donations, our phones for getting out the vote, and our voice — behind Hillary. Thank you New Hampshire for making this a real primary election again.