Despite Will’s take on the Washington Post’s “Next Top Pundit” contest, I thought it sounded like a pretty neat way to gain some exposure. I mean, no matter which way you look at it, for a young writer, being given even the chance to compete for a column is a great way to get a toe or two through the proverbial door. So I submitted an essay.
And I didn’t win. As Kevin Drum notes,
By the way, the ten winners include a Nobel Prize winner, a Bush 43 assistant secretary of commerce (guess which one), a senior correspondent for the American Prospect, an analyst at the Council on Foreign Relations, a former researcher at the Kennedy School of Government, an Atlantic Media fellow, and a small-town newspaper editor. Not exactly a crowd of just plain folks. It might have been more fun to read the other 4,790 entries.
I guess the odds were against me. I was under the impression this would be a battle between relative amateurs and unknowns, not Nobel Prize winners and Atlantic Media fellows. I stand corrected.
In any case, here’s what I submitted, in case you’re interested:
The ongoing health care debate has revealed a much deeper crisis on the right than one merely of tone. American conservatives have suffered a failure of imagination. Faced with the opportunity to reform Medicare and Medicaid and rein in out of control entitlement spending, the right has instead dug in its heels.
Contrast this with Britain’s Conservative Party. Led by the charismatic David Cameron, the Conservatives held their first ever gay pride conference this week in Manchester. Cameron and his allies are promising a radical shift, both culturally and economically from the failed big government policies of the Labour Party. The Tories have come up with broad, bold plans to put people back to work, drastically rein in public spending, and put the country back on its fiscal feet. And they’ve done this by allowing voices from all across their political spectrum to contribute and sound out ideas. More importantly, they’ve been able to communicate these ideas to the British people.
Republicans, on the other hand, have formed a cult of ditto-heads and talking points. Long gone are the days of Buckley and Reagan. Beck and Limbaugh rule the airwaves, and conspiracy theories run neck and neck with empty talking points on the right.
This is a shame. Real market reforms in the health care industry could help contain costs and provide access to all Americans. Instead Republicans have defended Medicare, despite its projected insolvency. Republican leadership has embraced the worst sort of conservative populism, cheering on the Tea Parties while ignoring the very real plight many uninsured Americans face. Rather than lending real support to the fiscally sound and nominally bipartisan Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act, Republican leadership has continued to play obstructionist. This may very well lead to far worse legislation passing.
In the end this is not even just a failure of imagination on the right. It’s a moral failure as well. The Democrats may be wrong about how to fix health care, but at least they care enough to try. Republicans may win a few small victories in their race to the bottom, but they’ll lose the larger war unless they find some way to connect with a broader swath of America and then get their ideas across. The wilderness beckons. The question is, can Republicans imagine a way back from the brink?
It’s a familiar theme for OG readers, and it probably could have handled an edit or two – I wrote it and submitted it in about an hour. I should probably let things marinate longer – but I’m in the habit of blogging….
I suppose instead I should have written about how neat our modern generation of working moms and passionate dads is, or pimped my youth credentials by writing about how we need to keep rocking the vote, or implied that somehow a public option would help the poor saps who can’t afford to live anywhere but in the resort towns in the Colorado Rockies.
On the other hand, the piece by the damn Nobel Prize winner was pretty good.