On a conference call with progressive new media types today, Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi made her view on the Republican plan to end Medicare crystal clear: "This has to be snuffed out."
Pelosi expansively defined the ultimate goal in the fight over Medicare as winning the debate in the eyes of the American people, rather than just winning the next election. This is standard political organizer thought. First, get the public on your side, and then the public will influence Republican behavior no matter the outcome of the next election.
Under the political circumstances we have faced for most of the last several decades, that line of thinking certainly makes sense. However, one has to wonder if the public at large is really what influences Republicans anymore. Will the real decision makers in the GOP—the uber-wealthy, the tea party, big corporations—ever back down from their proposals to privatize Medicare and Social Security, no matter how unpopular those ideas may be with the general public? For that matter, will the front groups that those right-wing decision-makers have inserted into the Democratic Party, most notably Third Way, ever back down from their support for watered-down versions of those ideas?
Pelosi also talked of the strategy Democrats should use to win the public debate. She spoke of drawing a contrast with Republicans, and alluded to a tactic employed by Democrats in the 2005 Social Security fight. During that fight, she noted, "We couldn't have our own proposal on Social Security," since presenting one would only lead to confusion and blur the differences between the parties. So instead, Democrats decided that "we have a proposal on the table—it's called Social Security."
One imagines, or at least hopes, that Democrats will adopt the same plan on Medicare. The proposal they will put on the table will simply be called "Medicare," while the Republican proposal is to end Medicare. Such framing would help provide the strongest possible contrast.
When I asked her to comment on the Republican offer of a one-week continuing resolution (even though a two-week recess is coming up) that funds the Pentagon for a full year at elevated levels while making $12 billion in cuts elsewhere, Pelosi didn't mince her words. "Out of the question." "Going nowhere." "A waste of time." "Clearly not even a good faith effort." "As a policy, terrible." "April Fool's day came and went." Due to the clarity of her response, I did not ask a follow-up.