This video is a classic example of why I like and admire Mark Warner, but also why he frustrates me at times.
On the “like and admire” part, obviously Warner is an extremely smart guy, a hard worker, and a leader among leaders. That’s all great. I also admire the fact that Warner is working so hard on such an important issue as reforming Wall Street, which as a wealthy businessman, he certainly understands.
So, what’s the problem here? No, it’s not the mere fact that he’s working with a Republican; I’m totally fine with that. Instead, what I’m troubled by is that Sen. Warner seems to be saying that having a more “centrist” and “bipartisan” solution represents an end in and of itself. I simply don’t see it that way. In my way of thinking, the goal is to come up with the best – most effective, helps the most people, makes as much progress as possible. etc. – possible legislation, not to have it be “centrist” (even if it’s labeled “radical centrist,” whatever that is) or “bipartisan” per se.
For instance, let’s say that experts – scientists, economists, whatever – determine that the optimal solution to Problem Y is Solution Z, but Solution Z is not considered to be “centrist” ideologically, and also does not have “bipartisan” support. Does that mean we should scrap it? I’d say the answer to that question is “clearly no,” but I’m honestly not sure what Sen. Warner’s answer would be.
Thus, on health care reform, clearly the public option is a “win-win-win” that helps “bend the cost curve down,” reduces the federal budget deficit, and provides people with more choice in health insurance. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why anyone would oppose this, yet Mark Warner appears to do just that, in large part because he seems to feel it’s not “centrist” or “bipartisan.” I really don’t understand that line of reasoning; how is the public option – giving people more choice while reducing costs – inherently “left” or “right?” And how is it inherently not “bipartisan,” except insofar as Republicans have determined to be monolithically against anything Democrats offer in this area? Got me.
In this case, the issues mainly relate to how tightly regulated Wall Street will be; what those regulations specifically will be, for instance, how free banks will be to own/invest in hedge funds and private-equity funds; how much power shareholders will have over the companies in which they own stock; how strongly the federal government will regulate the financial system; and how much protection consumers will have.
All of these are important issues, and in my way of thinking I care a lot more about whether they’re handled right than whether they are politically “right” or “left.” All else being equal, certainly bipartisanship would be nice. But, in the end, I simply do not consider bipartisanship to be an end in and of itself. If it is, then remind me again why we have two political parties, one that’s supposed to be broadly “conservative” (but in reality has lurched to the far right) and the other that’s supposed to be broadly “progressive” (but in reality is more corporatist/centrist)? In sum, I’m all for bipartisanship, and I have nothing against “centrist” solutions, as long as the starting point has each party fighting strongly for the ideas it believes in, and willing to go to the mat because it honestly believes those ideas would bring the most benefit to the most Americans. Is that too much to ask?