“But do you want to be non-partisan and get nothing? Or do you want to be partisan and end up with a good health care plan? That is the choice.” — Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Charleston Gazette, 6/25/2009

Sen. Rockefeller’s framing of the choice should be instructive for his fellow Democratic senators (whether they listen is surely up in the air).

In a way, the problem Rockefeller speaks of here is the opposite of something we often see among our lawmakers. Usually, lawmakers refuse to cooperate, often turning the process into an ideological battle that holds good policy hostage, resulting in little progress. Unfortunately, since we’ve gotten control of the Congress in 2006, Democrats are obsessed with making sure the GOP is happy with any legislative victories we might achieve. Yet, Republicans couldn’t care less about what Democrats feel. So we face a different outcome, though still frustrating — policy IS passed, but it’s nothing but mush, or Republican-lite.

Here we are, debating health care, faced with yet another opportunity to pass critical and historic legislation, this time with a Democratic president in the White House, and too many Democrats are afraid of hurting the Republicans’ feelings.

Repeat after me: PARTISANSHIP IS NOT A BAD THING. Yes, the arguing and ideological tactics can produce a toxic political process. But just as well, empty legislation can produce toxic policy, still leaving millions of Americans without health insurance, while handing the GOP a bone. The fact remains that Democrats have nearly 60 percent of the seats in both chambers, having won the majority of congressional races in 2008 despite the Republicans’ frequent attempts at linking the party and its presidential candidate with socialism. The presidential candidate ran on “change” and won. People want to see something different.

What’s more, the American people in poll after poll trust the Democrats to handle nearly all issues, with health care being one of the issues the public trusts Democrats with the most. A large Washington Post poll released this week produces similar results, though the poll pits Obama against the Congressional Republicans instead of both parties. Obama won big. Borrowing from Greg Sargent’s post on the Post’s poll at The Plum Line:

  • On health care, 51% of indys trust Obama, and 26% trust GOPers in Congress.
  • On the economy, 51% of indys trust Obama, and 31% trust the GOP.
  • On the budget deficit, 52% of indys trust Obama, and 30% trust the GOP.

Even though Barack Obama is on record as supporting a public option as a part of health reform, the majority of independent voters still support him — twice as many than the number supporting Republicans.

Youth are relying on the Democratic Party to produce some results after supporting them by a 2-1 ratio in 2008. We’re waiting for good policy (read – health reform WITH a public option) that’s passed and signed into law because we WANT and NEED it to be passed, not because we want to make sure the Republicans aren’t mad and don’t hold a grudge.

If the GOP wants to work with Democrats in good faith, fine. If not, Democrats have marching orders from Americans. And they don’t include kissing the feet of the GOP.