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Battle over health-care reform: vital lessons from America's founding fathers

Despite the ongoing attempts of House Republicans to kill President Obama's health-care reform law, the history of America's intense debate over ratifying the Constitution should make us optimistic about the law being accepted, improved, and implemented.

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History lights a path out of partisan morass, if we will but see. The new Republican House has read the Constitution, reverently, voted to repeal and defund health-care reform, defiantly, and listened to the president’s views on health care and our union, dutifully.

As a next step, I highly recommend they read Pauline Maier’s masterful “Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-88,” before plunging back into business as usual. Two lessons in particular speak to our recent health-reform debate: 1) Complex proposals may be best worked out in secret, but must be made clear before too long; 2) State-level debates can play essential roles in the acceptance of fundamental change in our country, if debaters are honest with one another.

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Whatever Glenn Beck may tell his admirers, our Constitution was written by elites behind closed doors. George Washington, coaxed out of retirement so that “better” men would also agree to become convention delegates, insisted that no one talk about deliberations outside their meetings in Philadelphia.

An elite, discreet, group

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