The Senate passed its health care bill last week, and as you may have noticed, the final version looks quite different from the original legislation introduced last summer.
What’s happened in the meantime is a case study in what’s wrong with Congress — and a map of the work that lies ahead of us as we enter into a new year.
Take a look at one popular bogeyman of the day, Joe Lieberman. The people of his state strongly supported the public option, 68 percent to 21 percent in a recent poll. But Senator Lieberman almost single-handedly killed the public option, threatening to filibuster any legislation that included it. So why’d he do it?
Maybe Joe was acting on principle, and perhaps he believes every word that’s come out of his mouth in the past month. We don’t know. What we do know is that special interests in the insurance, health care, and pharmaceutical industries have given Joe Lieberman millions in campaign contributions.
It’s easy to pick on Joe Lieberman, but he’s far from the only member of Congress whose motives we can’t know. The point isn’t that these 535 people are evil. It’s that a vast and confusing network of influences stands between the public and our elected representatives, undermining trust in Congress and giving us no choice, finally, but to assume the worst whenever a member doesn’t vote the way we might have liked.
Fixing the problem doesn’t mean voting out the feckless Democrats or the obstructionist Republicans. It doesn’t even mean voting out Senator Lieberman. As long as our legislative process is held in thrall to an economy of influence that nearly requires members to play nice with the special interests, the will of the people — on the left and on the right — will continue to be stymied on every issue, in every Congress, under every administration.
The good news — yes, there is good news — is that, thanks to the health care mess, the public has never been more engaged on the issue of electoral reform than it is today. People who hated the bill and people who loved it have watched with growing disgust as the process seemed to be derailed, and the legislation itself torn apart by the highest bidders.
And what these people want to know is: How can we build a system in which the American people are the highest bidder?
I’m grateful you’ve decided to join our campaign to achieve real reform and finally take the money out of our political system. In the new year, we’ll be expanding these efforts — and your continued participation will be critical to our success. To get started, forward this email to your family and friends and tell them to visit http://change-congress.org to learn more.
The challenges have never felt more urgent, and never more daunting. But the will to win this fight has never run so deep, or so wide. 2010 is going to be a very good year for our movement.
Thank you, and a happy and healthy New Year to you and yours.
– Lawrence Lessig