Bipartisanship matters, particularly on health care

McCain’s speech, and why it matters

Written by Carrie Butler, Action Utah Issue Captain

On Tuesday, Senator John McCain returned to work days after undergoing potentially lifesaving surgery for brain cancer. In an address to his fellow senators, he argued firmly and emotionally for increased cooperation and bipartisanship between politicians, especially as members of both parties attempt to improve the U.S. healthcare system.

Many were understandably troubled by his remarks, since McCain’s speech followed his decision to vote yes in repealing the Affordable Care Act, a decidedly partisan choice which will cost millions of Americans their health insurance and cause premiums to rise unsustainably for the elderly or infirm.

Though we might disagree with his vote regarding the ACA, we believe his speech contained an important and powerful message.  At Action Utah, one of our biggest goals is to find common ground in order to promote good policy at both the local and federal level. The more we work with Utahns and invest time and effort in helping our members increase their civic engagement, the more we recognize the deep goodness inherent in humanity. Most people are good, and are truly seeking to do what is right for our country. While we may disagree with the best methods of reform, or how to accomplish meaningful change, we believe cooperation and a willingness to engage openly with others remains a vital part of improving healthcare.

It is easy to be distracted by the fast-moving changes within our government, and it is even easier to engage in an “us versus them” mentality when engaging with those who don’t share our opinions. Senator McCain reminded his colleagues of the importance of debate and deliberation in the policy process. He spoke about the current partisanship we are all mired in politically, admitting that “we haven’t been overburdened by greatness lately.” Furthermore, he notes that we are all responsible for the decline of the political process:

“Both sides have let this happen. Let’s leave the history of who shot first to the historians. I suspect they’ll find we all conspired in our decline – either by deliberate actions or neglect. We’ve all played some role in it. Certainly I have. Sometimes, I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes, I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague. Sometimes, I wanted to win more for the sake of winning than to achieve a contested policy.”

His final sentence is a surprisingly candid admission, one rarely heard on the Senate floor and one worth remembering. Can’t we all relate to his sentiments? How often do we want to win just for the sake of winning? Teddy Roosevelt believed that “the object of government is the welfare of the people,” but how can we accomplish this objective if we allow “winning” to be more important than our neighbors?

Bipartisan cooperation allows us to achieve more for our country. It helps us develop inclusive and effective policies that stand the test of time. While we remain committed to protecting and fighting for every individual’s right to quality, affordable healthcare, we also remain determined to work with people from all political backgrounds. Our goals go beyond a simple political victory: we want to prove to Senator McCain that we are more than willing to shoulder the burden of greatness.

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