Saturday, February 6, 2010

Paint on a "small hinge"

I said quite a while back that President Obama struck a wrong note with me when he said he wanted "to be the last president" to address Healthcare Reform. No one should ever have thought or assumed the movement forward would be perfected in one genius giant step —least of all the President himself. That insistence on being "the last" ultimately contradicts what he himself has said time and time again, that this "isn't about me."

Now, as the prospect of a pared back package of incremental improvements appears, the President offers advice to Congress (Republicans an Democrats, alike) about not painting themselves into rhetorical corners, from where constructive compromise becomes impossible. The hard part in politics and public life (and in life in general, I think) is realizing when you should heed your own advice, live up to your own wisdom.

Hopefully the paint around his own corner has dried.

This piece from Fred Kaplan describes the valid potential value of reform that falls far short of perfection —that is far from the last word. Kaplan proffers the historic precedent of Civil Rights Law long forgotten and little valued at the time it was passed, The 1957 Civil Rights Act, law that had its original advocates "outraged" at the compromised bill that ultimately came to vote and formed law. "Many of them argued that it would be better to kill the bill and start over with a new one. (Sound familiar?)" Kaplan asks and then chronicles how the small measures the bill did contain proved important to the historic progress that followed on its heels.

...Long journeys involve steps —or as Kaplan phrases it "small hinges."

"Sometimes the gates of history swing on small hinges, as the saying goes. The 1957 Civil Rights Act was a preposterously small hinge that helped swing open a very wide gate. It's not out of the question that a pared-down health care bill might do the same."

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