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Reformers: Be ready when your time comes

E.J. Dionne Jr. on

Price hopes that Republicans might at some point be willing to enact specific elements of the bill. For example, he notes that members of both parties worry about "the danger of losing control of their campaign message to unaccountable outside groups."

But the wide-ranging nature of the bill -- it includes additional reform ideas introduced by various members of Congress over the years -- sends a larger message about the need for "comprehensive reform," he said, and the importance of being ready with "a clear set of proposals when the opportunity to pass them presents itself, as it inevitably will."

Believe it or not, progressives can learn from the Republicans' failure to end Obamacare. Fred Wertheimer, the president of Democracy 21 and a veteran of past reform efforts, notes that Republicans spoke for years about "repeal and replace." But when political circumstances gave them a chance of working their will, they lacked a plausible policy alternative.

The lesson is that political movements should not squander their time in opposition. They should use the opportunity that a respite from power affords to think boldly, broadly and practically.

There is one other thing about reform: It happens when even those who are skeptical of change realize that the existing system cannot sustain itself. If Trump's rise and the abuses of his presidency do not persuade us about the depth of our problem, nothing will.

The time has come to make our democracy democratic again. And now, no one can say that we lack ideas for how to do it.

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E.J. Dionne's email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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