National health care and how we elect people

This has been sitting in my blog as a draft for a couple of weeks. It’ll be old news by now, but healthcare is a long-range political issue, and Lawrence Lessig and Joe Trippi‘s latest project Change Congress is still pursuing it, and I think it’s worth a read.

In short: Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson opposes to Obama’s health care reform work. Obama is all, hey, we got a broken system. Maybe we should rethink children’s health insurance and also how completely unaffordable COBRA is and what we can do about it, and, you know. Health. It’s one of those most precious resources.

And Nelson is all, Obama is trying to hurt private health insurers by making health insurance public! Socialized medicine! What next, THE FROG PLAGUE?

…Huh. What do you know, Nelson has received quite a bit of fundraising money from private health insurance companies. The article I link to here has Nelson attacking back, but he doesn’t seem to refute the donations.

Healthcare is a tricky and complex issue, and I’ve got no rosy sunglasses on about socialized healthcare. But this isn’t about public health insurance, it’s about elections. Frankly, anyone dismissing an organization run by Lessig and Trippi as a “special interest group” running “a fundraising gimmick” is automatically suspect in my book. And the vehemence of Nelson’s language combined with his considerable extremely-special-interest funding makes me want to go march somewhere and put flowers in these people’s fountain pens. It wouldn’t help, though.

So, how about changing election rules? How about entirely publicly funded election campaigns? Can you imagine how things might go when advertising time is roughly equal and people have to really think before they hurl insults at each other? What if no special interests got to financially contribute to a campaign? Wouldn’t that be nice? I think that’d be nice.

(Edited Friday 12 June to add this update from Lessig on the Nelson thing.)

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