Rhetoric since the inauguration and, more specifically, since the start of the political right’s efforts to create an Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace bill, has perpetuated a narrative that Washington is in a state of disarray. Thus far, a constructive dialogue has not been encouraged, but rather, figureheads on both the right and left have relied on hateful rebuke and criticism.
Various media outlets have greeted House Speaker Paul Ryan with an outpouring of disapproval from the moment he revealed his repeal-and-replace plan. From The Washington Post claiming Paul Ryan is “the enemy of the right,” to Mark Levin at the Conservative Review dubbing the bill as “RINOcare”(RINO being a common party insult meaning “Republican In Name Only”) there has been nothing shy about popular reaction to its unveiling.
Before we condemn the present, though, it is crucial to examine our past. For the past eight years, Washington saw strong-arming at its finest. The prototypical legislative process was not merely hidden but forgotten, as former President Barack Obama continued to thumb his nose at Congress.
His prime focus and political baby was christened “Obamacare” — a piece of legislation that he effectively rammed through Congress without any bipartisan approval. As it was crafted behind closed doors with virtually no transparency, the American public innocently listened to a host of specious claims growing more and more misguided on a variety of its principles along the way.
The takeaway: As Republicans had no stake in the plan, Obama and chief Democrats received all the credit. Yet, in due time, as we are seeing now, the Democrats are receiving the brunt of the blame for its “implosion” (i.e., premium increases, dwindling competition, etc.)
Herein lies our current dilemma. Negotiating the here and now should not take on a binary approach — say yes to the Republicans’ new plan or align yourself with Obamacare’s failures — but rather, a collaborative one. In a New York Times op-ed piece, Ohio Gov. John Kasich writes, “A true and lasting reform of the health insurance system must be accomplished by bringing the two sides together.”
Former President Obama conveyed a very important message to Republicans and Democrats alike: Unilateralism is not the way forward. Pursuing this avenue marked by self-reliance and egotism only divides our nation even further. It appears as if the current man in the Oval Office is taking this advice to heart, as he has mentioned that though Ryan’s bill is the appropriate vehicle, it must be modified down the road.
In a recent interview with Tucker Carlson on Fox News, President Trump refrained from completely jumping on board with the bill by saying, “It’s very preliminary … but (it) is going to be negotiated.” In other words, Trump is doing what he does best: deal-making. His measured approach should sound all too familiar to those who have read his bestseller “The Art of the Deal.” As he details, the key to success is to keep one’s options open, not entirely committing to one plan and seeking dialogue.
In a recent briefing, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, laid out this approach very carefully when he commented: “… regardless of what caucus or faction you’re a part of, if you have an idea that can enhance this bill and make it more patient-centric and achieve the goals, then we’re all for it. So that’s a process. … There have been a lot of ideas, a lot of debate, and a lot of issues put forward into how to craft this.”
Given the past eight years, it is of paramount importance that we redefine our vision and identify what we are discussing here — real-life humans and politics. Spicer describes that the current administration is in the business of creating policies that benefit the patient. With this approach, the individual transcends partisanship. Reaching across the aisle is a necessity, as is reciprocity once such a gesture is made.
And as for our political landscape, we must realize that we, along with our politicians, are not in Kansas anymore. The ground beneath Washington’s feet has changed and, though we may not be walking down a yellow brick road, it is one that has potential. We have returned to a political environment conducive to consensus building and productive negotiation.
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, when it comes to legislation, we are fortunate to have a pair of overseeing eyes with a diverse perspective in President Trump. In order to fulfill this mandate of patient-oriented policy, the right and the left need to abandon their once-fixed, isolationist mindsets. Productive dialogue is the way forward and with a businessman now living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., they need to decide if they want to make a deal or not.
I insist they make the deal.
Nicholas Tomaino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.