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September 9, 2013

Mitchel Olszak: Failure to cooperate on key issues taints modern politics

NEW CASTLE — If you drew up a list of history’s staunchly partisan Republicans, Newt Gingrich would likely rank near the top.

Gingrich, the former GOP House speaker and occasional presidential candidate, crafted his reputation as an ideological bomb thrower. He rose to prominence with his aggressive brand of conservatism and suffered at the hands of his own arrogance.

But here’s what the strident Gingrich had to say a few weeks ago about his party’s stance on President Obama’s health reform initiatives. Gingrich chastised his fellow Republicans for having “zero” options to the president’s package.

He indicated opposition to Obamacare was a dead end, because Republicans have no plans, other than repeated — and pointless — House votes to repeal it.

Although he referred to Obama’s presidency as a “disaster,” Gingrich found failure in the GOP’s response, which he dismissed as little more than “anti-Obama.” Instead, Gingrich argued, “we have to reconvince people you can have hope in America, that we can have a better future.”

Interestingly, former President Bill Clinton showed up in his home state of Arkansas last week to discuss health care reform. He sought to defend and explain it, contending it provided better options for the American people that the old system.

However, Clinton acknowledged the package is less than perfect, citing the inability of some Americans to obtain subsidized coverage through the health insurance of employed spouses.

But making any constructive changes is impossible in the current climate, where Republicans are interested only on undoing the whole thing.

“We’d all be better off working together to make it work as well as possible,” Clinton said of health reform, “instead of ... replaying the same old battles.”

The notion of cooperating to solve problems is hardly new. In fact, it’s a bedrock principle of representative government. Individuals working for different people and different interests come together and forge agreements for the common good. The final results may be imperfect, but they take various perspectives into account.

That didn’t happen with Obamacare, because early on, Republicans opted for a plan to just say no. They scored political gains with flat-out opposition and haven’t shifted.

Of course there are flaws in Obamacare. But it’s foolish to argue the old system — which increasingly priced individuals and businesses out of health insurance — was fine. Reforms were needed, but they should have taken more ideas into account.

Unfortunately, in modern American politics, attacks count for more than accomplishments. And citizens who don’t demand better will pay the ultimate price.

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