Paying Attention And Participating

Richard’s post below reminded me of a point that I wanted to make before the whole health care debate effectively ends, supposedly with a vote on Sunday in the House of Representatives.  Whether you support or oppose the “health care reform” legislation — and even a casual reader of the blog knows that Richard, UJ and I are on opposite sides of the fence on that point — I think we can all be proud of how politically engaged many Americans have been on the issues.  Although the media approach may be superficial, I think people are paying close attention to both the substance of the bill and to the process.  During the torturous path of the “health care reform” legislation, people have become knowledgeable about issues related to “the public option,” about certain insurance industry practices, about the role the CBO plays in estimating the budget and deficit impact of bills, about deals that have been cut to secure votes, about the Senate filibuster rules, the reconciliation procedure, and the role of the House Rules Committee, and about a number of other topics.

All of this is a good thing — a kind of civics refresher course that should make our body politic more attentive to important political issues and to the need for people to participate in the process.  We are already seeing this, through the various protests and the estimated 100,000 calls per hour that currently are overloading the congressional phone system capabilities.  I would guess that many of the people who are calling and advocating, pro and con, for the “health care reform” legislation didn’t vote in recent elections, or perhaps voted without a sufficient understanding of their candidate’s positions on issues like “health care reform.”

I expect that all of that will now change.  Although some pundits are predicting that the public interest in politics will wane, because some voters supposedly are disillusioned with President Obama, I think the opposite will be true.  If the “health care reform” legislation is enacted, the resulting law will have real consequences for people’s lives, their health care options, and their pocketbooks.  The impact of those real consequences will cause people to realize that, if they just sit on the sidelines, they have only themselves to blame if the consequences are not to their liking. 

American voters obviously disagree on “health care reform,” but I think we can all agree on one point — it is better to have our citizens  paying careful attention to what our elected representatives are doing and giving them an earful on what their constituents are thinking about the important issues of the day.  Democracy works best when voters are actively engaged in the process.

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