I am fortunate enough to possess what I consider a really great marriage. Part of what makes it great, I think, is the fact that Mr. RenaRF is a perfect counter-balance to my weaknesses (which are numerous).
I want to tell you a story. And then I want to relate it back to what's going on today, here at Daily Kos.
More over the fold.
2004 & 2005 were tough for me professionally. I had been recruited out of a job into a new job with a small company. I and a colleague were hired to essentially start up a very specific, new practice within this small company. The compensation and benefits were great. But more attractive than that was the opportunity to build something, and run that something once built. I started the new job in April/May of 2004.
I won't go into all the details because they are not relevant and would consume too much space. But suffice it to say - I fell victim within this company to its over-estimation of the market it was trying to penetrate as well as to a devious, backstabbing, politically cut-throat colleague (the other guy who was hired along with me to build this practice). On a cold day in early January, HR called me and indicated that they were going to let me go, a scant 7 months after starting the job.
The situation was totally unfair. It rescinded, essentially, every promise and assurance I was given when I left my previous job for the new one. The circumstances of my professional demise within this company were bullshit as well. I had grievances, no doubt - and they were all fact-based. But facts don't always rule the day, as all of us know personally, politically & professionally.
What ensued, for me, was a period of near meltdown. First, I'd never been let go from a job before. Second, I totally didn't see it coming, and I had ABSOLUTELY no plans for employment down the road - which creates its own problem, because at my level it takes months to secure employment. Ironically, this is when I started blogging the most (if you care, you can go back and see how active I was from January to June 2005). I mean - I had a lot of time on my hands.
During this time, my husband would come home to find a pretty depressed me on the couch. When he'd try to talk to me about what might be in the running from an employment perspective (like most of us, I don't have the luxury, financially, of not being employed), I would snap at him. I was always inevitably drawn back to endless recounting of how I had been shit on in my previous job. I would cry a lot during this period (you'll have to take my word on this - I am NOT a cryer). I was really stuck, mentally and emotionally, on the bad experience of the previous employer and the unfairness of it all. It was affecting everything I should have been doing to rectify the problem. In short, I was a mess.
Mr. RenaRF mollified me for a while. But there came a time that he simply looked me in the eye when I was on one of my many crying jags, bemoaning the circumstances, and said the following:
"Get a grip."
Oooooh was I pissed off. Get a grip? Get a fucking grip?? Wasn't he supposed to be on my side, helping me? Didn't he understand that I had been utterly fucked over? We had a BIG argument after that sentence. We don't argue much, and both of us are lay-it-on-the-table types of people. We retreated to our neutral corners until we had both calmed down, and then I went to him to talk about it more calmly. What he told me was that he acknowledged that I had been fucked over. He professed his deep desire to seriously fuck up the people that had done this to me. He placed their names indelibly on his "shit list" for time imemorial (he holds a grudge). But he also patiently explained that focusing on that whole situation was actually causing me to hurt myself more. I NEED to work for more than just income - it's a part of who I am, and it's a big part of how I define my self-worth (that's just how I'm put together). By endlessly cycling through emotional states that caused me to prevent myself from moving forward, I was actually accentuating and deepening my own personal downward spiral.
My husband said:
"You're RenaRF. Anyone would want to have you work for them. You're the single most intelligent, motivated person I've ever met, and you just need to remember that, get your ass up off the couch, and go find the next thing that's going to help you be happy."
He was right. It's so simplistic to say that I was mired in, basically, self-pity - but that IS what it boils down to. The end result was that I was stuck on something I couldn't change, and was furthermore making things worse for myself by being stuck. Mr. RenaRF told me the hard truth and called me out on my own contribution to my own unhappiness and set things on the right path. I'm so grateful for that level of partnership.
I'm genuinely distressed by the tone and content of a lot of what I'm seeing around Daily Kos lately. It bothers me on multiple levels.
The first thing I'm seeing is a host of contradictions from well-established community members for whom I have a great deal of respect. There was a cadre - small but powerful - of early alarm-bell ringers. I'd say this was most prevalent over the summer and into the early fall as the whole Teabagger thing started consuming mainstream news cycles. Those bell-ringers lamented Obama's lack of control/involvement/power-assertion/arm-twisting of, specifically, the Senate as the healthcare reform issue came fully to a head. "He's not doing enough to MAKE them listen", they said. "He's being so naive and letting the Senate run all over him and we're going to get shit in return."
Now - I may personally agree with that assessment, but that's not why I'm highlighting it. In other words, I haven't brought it up to debate whether or not he did or didn't do enough in the early stages to reign in Senate Democrats, and particularly the more moderate Senate Democrats. I bring it up to serve as a contrast to a criticism I'm increasingly seeing over the past few days.
These have occurred in a host of recommended, Obama sucks diaries yesterday, as well as in a few front page posts. The idea is generally this - Obama has been the Puppet Master, pulling the strings of Congressional Democrats all along and that the bill that is about to come out of the Senate is EXACTLY what Obama wanted all along. The reason why the bill is coming out as it is is because Obama always wanted it, and Senate Democrats fell to their knees in awe of his power and got in line behind his always-present agenda to have the bill look exactly as it appears it is going to look. Many references to Rahm Emmanuel are made in these puppet-master posts - the power behind the throne - followed or preceded by choice expletives.
So... Obama went from an ineffectual failed leader who couldn't get his own party in line within the Senate in August and December, a President who was quintessentially too UNinvolved to a mastermind hell bent on a shitty bill who magically forced key Senate Democrats to bend to his will. Quite a 180 there.
A lot of the criticsm also focuses around the idea that Obama is bought and paid for, that he lied to us all and personally misled us throughout the campaign and is now blithely and cruelly turning his back on us.
Let me just say - the fact of money in politics is exactly that: a fact. I personally think it's the single biggest impediment to good government FOR the people regardless of which party we're discussing. There are virtually ZERO examples of a weakly-funded candidate defeating a well-funded candidate. Ultimately, folks, the responsibility for that construct lies with the American people. Because money isn't factored out of political campaigns and because we don't elect people who have no money and therefore no media exposure, we reinforce the necessity of money to get elected. I've often wondered if I would ever want to take a stab at local elected politics. I think I'm well-spoken and my ideas and priorites are defensible with the facts. But I would never seriously consider it because I know in my heart that it would break me. I'm not strong enough - my spirit and optimism would fall victim to the realities of electoral politics.
I believe generally that the vast majority of elected officials get into politics because they want to implement change that favors their particular ideological point of view. I believe further that the vast majority who succeed (e.g., win) recognize and personally revile the corruptible holes in the system - but at the same time, they believe further that the only way to change the system is to first be WITHIN the system. So you take a newly-elected person who had to raise and spend money to become elected in the first place and, slowly, their principles become partially eroded in practice because of the strong belief that they can do more good within than without. It's a mental, emotional compromise and probably occurs slowly, but it does occur.
I don't highlight that as an excuse - I highlight is as a reality that arises out of the way things are TODAY.
So do I believe that Obama has capitulated to a certain degree to Corporate interests? Yes I do. But I do NOT believe that these capitulations were made solely on the basis of some secret, inexplicable and evil plot on his or anyone else's behalf. Take the health insurance companies as an example. Yes, they're evil. Yes, they're profit-driven and will remain so - THAT is the system within which THEY operate. Do I embrace and/or agree with this profit-driven, short-term focus? Of course not. But the sheer amount of systemic and regulatory change that's going to have to occur to slowly change that construct can't be underestimated.
Consider this: the ONLY sector of the economy that is growing appreciably is the healthcare industry. The growth rate in healthcare jobs from 2008-2018 is expected to be 22.5%. Contrast that with the hotel segement of the service economy, which is expected to grow at only 5% over the same period. I'm not happy with what I'm about to say here, but the employment impact of any healthcare reform proposal must be considered. Because the insurance, pharamceutical and delivery sides of healthcare are intricately intertwined, any changes to any of the elements must be weighed.
I don't have the skills to do a full-scale analysis - but when an industry (healthcare) is responsible for 1/6th of the US economy AND unemployment in the US has reached double-digits AND "The economy and jobs OVERWHELMINGLY tops the list of priorities as articulated by the American people writ large, well - you have to consider the impact of any changes to healthcare from an economic and employment perspective. I'm actually pretty surprised that some of the brighter economic minds here at Daily Kos haven't explained and made that point (sorry if they have and I've missed it).
Now - I DO understand that meaningful healthcare reform is not only the right thing to do completely outside of economic considerations, and I further understand that, over the long term, meaningful healthcare reform is also economically beneficial. I've always considered it a wise national investment that has the bonus of also being the right thing to do. But come back to one of my original assertions in this section - that a belief exists that change can only be made within the system as it exists today. Given this, I think there's a strong point of debate that has probably occurred about how much change can be implemented that:
a) doesn't cause unemployment to rise;
b) doesn't affect the employment growth rate in the healthcare sector;
c) doesn't cause the overall economic outlook to worsen; and
d) doesn't adversely affect an individual politician's ability to remain within the system (e.g., be re-elected) in order to further change.
I'm not saying you have to like it. I'm not even saying that it's going on - I don't know. But I am saying that it is a viable, alternate consideration to the growing "Corporate Sellout" meme. We are a community who decried - for 8 years - a lack of willingness to "nuance" when it comes to complex issues and complex decisions, and further reviled all of the snap judgments and proclamations we felt the right was making. I find it amazing that we ourselves now ignore nuance as our consternation and frustration magnifies, and jump immediately to the worst possible conclusions in absence of the consideration of nuance.
I think that, generally, we ARE a reality-based community. We believe in science and facts and documents and evidence. All of our core beliefs (generally) support a climate that runs on facts and evidence.
Yet we are remarkably resistant to facts when they don't work out the way we wanted to.
I'm not suggesting that we keep our mouths shut or fail to highlight failures on anyone's part when we see them occurring. But at some point, we're going to have to face the FACT that we are going to get a healthcare bill that is substantially less than what we think it should be. I understand the cries for reconciliation and I say - keep shouting until reconciliation isn't an option. I understand the reasoning behind those who say we should scrap this bill and start over (although I don't necessarily agree with that assessment) and I say - keep shouting until it's obvious that what you demand isn't going to happen.
But the endless carping and conspiratorial speculation MUST END at some point. For one, I don't think anyone here has a basis in fact for those more extreme opinions that are surfacing with alarming regularity. For another, you'll be doing to yourselves what I did to myself in my opening story - working against your own best interests and convictions in the long run.
There simply has to be a point where - IF it becomes obvious (and I personally believe it's already obvious) that some form of the current Senate bill is going to pass - we collectively shift our attention and accept as fact that our foundational, baseline bill is not what we want and then focus our considerable talent on how to improve it incrementally moving forward. Since it's not what the majority of the progressive community wants right now AND it's apparent that some version of "not good" is going to pass, we do ourselves - individually and collectively - NO FAVORS whatsoever by being stuck on the unfairness of what is and ruminations on what could have been while the state of healthcare remains in that "not good" place.
We. Are. Reality. Based. People. We must remember that and ensure that we aren't only reality-based when it suits us.
Democrats & Elections
Those of you who say that you're not going to support Democrats going forward over this, that you've had enough and are basically going to disengage - well... I can't say what came to my mind right there for fear of hijacking my own diary, so let me say this: My memory isn't so short of what a theocratic-controlled Congress looks and feels like (let alone functions like) that I have ANY desire to return there so quickly. The memory of the anti-choice people, the "intelligent design" people, the right to life people, the young earth people, the science deniers, the drill-baby-drillers, the "bring it on-ers", the torturers, the war starters, the tax cutters, the equal pay deniers, the "let the unemployed fend for themselves-ers", the "mental recessionists", the "healthcare is fine-ers" - the list is too long to continue - is fresh in MY mind. Have you forgotten?
Am I suggesting that you NOT challenge "bad" Democrats where you're able? No. I'm not. But if there's no viable alternative to a particular odious Democrat outside of an even more odious Republican, well, reality sucks sometimes. And sometimes - even though it's nauseating - there IS a necessity to choose the substantially lesser of two evils.
I'll ask this one question, while knowing absolutely that it's unanswerable - yet it's still powerfully worthy of consideration: What if we had passed this exact same bill in 1992 or 1993? What if we had put into place a foundation - however flawed - on which we had built incrementally for the past 16 or 17 years? What might healthcare look like today?? I defy anyone to tell me that it would look worse today, and probably even to tell me that it would look the same today as it does right now.
And this is why I opened this section with a big "fuck you" - IF we are truly reality-based even when it doesn't suit us and IF we accept the fact that the current bill is likely to become the legislative foundation on which we build, can any of us realistically see ANY incremental progress under a Republican-controlled Congress? The answer to that should be obvious to everyone.
And let's face it - for whatever reason - mismangement, bad blue-dog Democrats, poor messaging, WHATEVER - the rest of the American public isn't very jazzed about the healthcare reform proposals that were on the table as recently as two weeks ago, nor do they consider healthcare reform their own top priority. I know and you know that the collective is being VERY short-sighted, and that healthcare reform SHOULD be a top priority that will have a profound effect on every American in the very near future. But they aren't seeing it that way right now. And the kicker is that support of a public option seems to be eroding (although not impoloding) as well.
Finally, an ending to this diary.
If you are sitting there thinking any of the following:
- That I am telling you NOT to be pissed off.
- That I am telling you to STFU.
- That I am telling you to smile while you swallow a bitter pill and not complain.
- That I am telling you that I am smarter than you are.
- That I am telling you you should always blindly follow whichever Democrat is on the ticket.
Then I have either communicated poorly, or you haven't read carefully, or you may be a little over-amped around the entire subject or some combination of any or all of those.
What I am trying to do is take a longer view while still honoring my own principles and convictions while ALSO simultaneously trying to remain reality-based.
The constant conspiracy-theorizing and declaring Obama a bad leader and all of the "gee the right wing is happy we're doing their job for them" nonsense that's been flying around here lately is going to ultimately have the effect of YOU - yes, you - hurting yourself in the long run, albeit with the best of intentions.
So I say to you:
"Get a grip."
You've been wronged, I know. You have a right to feel sorry for yourself. But it won't and can't get any better, EVER, with the path you are currently on.
"But YOU are the Netroots. You played an integral part in moving the ball forward, though it may not feel that way right now. You tell it like it is. You learn and investigate. You are a force to be reckoned with, now and into the future."
We can still focus on and foment meaningful change. We can put one foot in front of the other - we can regret and try to make adjustments to account for the fact that we can't seem to quite leap forward just yet and try to fix that, but we are and always will be an integral part in the driving engine of change. The only way that doesn't happen is if we continue to get in our own way.