Health care is a serious subject. Single-payer health systems provide a serious model for how to get the public the health care it needs.

If only single payer health had more serious champions in California.

The ongoing effort to pass legislation that purports to establish single payer in the state has revealed how scarily unserious the left can be here. Interest groups and otherwise sensible legislators have brought forward a bill without demonstrating serious work for how to structure such a system, transition to it, or raise the money to pay for it.

Doing this for real would require years of thinking, planning, public deliberation and including all kinds of constituencies, including opponents, in the conversation. (It also would require openness to major tax reform that left and right have been bottling up for decades). But this current push for single-payer seems to be about scoring points and using the issue as a cudgel. One byproduct: the issue is dividing a Democratic party that needs to be productively united in the face of the Trump administration.

This tendency to grandstand on serious policymaking was true before single-payer, of course. And it’s true of both left and right in the state.

Look at education—a core function that everyone professes to love but that has been allowed to be severely underfunded for a generation. Or examine housing, where too many have embraced no-growth policies that crush California’s poor and middle class. Or the courts, which legislators have stripped of funding to the point where they are no longer a venue for anyone without money. Or higher education, where legislators play a double game of cutting budgets while whining about the compensating tuition increases.

If only people on the left had devoted the same passion to those issues as they have to useless political fights, like the current brawl over leadership of the California Democratic Party.

Democratic rule has had its virtues, but it has also made California collectively hypocritical. We talk a big game about our progressivism, but don’t really deliver on it. That’s why it’s time for a new generation of community leaders and others to step forward, and take the provision of high-quality and essential public services seriously.

Single-payer could be part of that conversation; maybe gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom’s strong interest in the idea can prompt the beginning of real policy planning and deliberation over the next 18 months. But the way the issue has played out so far should remind us: Progress is too important to be left to California progressives.