The Senate is where progressive hopes go to die. After the ordeal in the House for health care reform and a not entirely putrid result, the Democratic Senate is determined to ensure that no one will ever mistake the U.S. as a place where progressive ideas have any sway. For every step forward there are at least two back - and quite a few sideways.
Step by step, inch by inch, the redeeming features have been pared back or perverted. Single payer couldn't even get in the door; the public option was... well it was too public for the patricians who are so determined to keep the masses from upsetting the lovely system that nurtures them. They've had to protect us from ourselves. Medicare buy-in? The Horror!
Don't even ask about the Republicans; the Wrecking Crew has hardly had to do more then spread their usual fears and lies and the let the 'moderates' across the aisle do their dirty work for them.
So, what is a progressive supposed to do? Should we take what we can get or do our best to kill the bill until they get it right?
I'm going to cut to the chase here and say yes, we go with it.
We don't shut up, we don't stop fighting for something better - but we'd better take this half measure and run with it.
It's a matter of momentum. America has plenty of it, but it's all in the wrong direction. On Climate Change, on the way wealth is being concentrated into fewer and fewer hands, on the many demonstrations of politics polluted by money, on the assaults on basic rights and the rule of law; on these and so many other fronts Progressives have been losing ground for years. Remember, this is the first year of the Obama administration. Getting anything done is going to get progressively harder as time goes on.
If we don't do this now, it is not going to be easier down the road. Failure will be used as proof to once more say the liberal agenda simply can't work and is not what America wants. Do we really want to keep on reinforcing that message?
Sure, the current bill looks like it is not going to do nearly enough to control costs as it could, it looks like a giveaway to Big Pharma and the insurance companies, it threatens to do what the right wing has failed to deliver for their right to life obsessives, and it doesn't provide as much coverage to as many as it could.......
But here's the deal. Here are a few of the things it COULD do - if we don't kill it.
- IF we can get bill through that begins to end the absurdities and abuses inherent in our current system, Life will be made better for people who are now in horrible straits. Hold on to that thought.
- We will be able to point to the fact that the government has had to act because the There are a number of heads that will explode among the villagers and the media if that meme starts to take hold.
- Decades of Conservative propaganda, idolizing a market which cannibalizes those it is supposed to serve, are starting to unravel after the excesses of Wall Street. If the government can demonstrate that the market has limits that the public sector can transcend, (And by "us" I mean all Americans, not just liberals. The right has managed to get too many people working against their own interests for way too long.)
- As bad as this bill is, for all the drawbacks and shortcomings, the Republicans have no viable alternatives that anyone finds credible. And leaving things as they are is not an option. We have solutions to try; they don't. It's a chance to demonstrate that.
- Democrats at long last have the opportunity to take a small step back away from the cliff conservative ideology has been driving the country towards for years, and Progressive policies in the past won World War II, raised wages, built a strong economy, created a huge middle class, raised standards of living, and won the Cold War; conservative policies have been strip-mining that bounty for the last 40 years while giving nothing back.
So how do we stomach this? It requires an adjustment of attitudes and expectations.
If you are the kind of person who believes that we can solve our problems, that things can work out, there is always the danger of assuming all will be well and we can relax once we accomplish something. We took back Congress and the White House, right? Wasn't that enough?
Remember the original Star Wars movie, when Luke Skywalker destroyed the Death Star and everyone celebrated as though they were all going to live happily ever after? Did that wipe away all the forces of the Empire, reverse the long running trends that had put them in power, or restore the fallen Republic?
Obviously not. There is no magic wand, no Hero or Great Leader who can replace the need for constant vigilance and determined effort. This is NOT a movie we can walk out of with a warm glow afterwards. It's not over.
Don't forget, we're trying to reverse decades of conservative momentum that has handed government over to corporations, the economy over to the wealthy, morality to sanctimonious religious fascists, and a media they have created to serve their agenda. They have done everything they can to discredit the idea of government as a positive factor in human affairs, denigrated the idea of a public good, and done all they can to delegitimize anyone who doesn't buy into their view of the world.
thereisnospoon laid out in explicit detail exactly what we're up against in a diary that anyone serious about taking back the country needs to bookmark. Conservatives have spent years building up the political machinery and determination to use it that thereisnospoon pointed out we lack.
As the healthcare debacle went on month after month, I didn't ask myself why the Democratic politicians weren't pushing single-payer or Medicare for all. I wanted to know where the Left-leaning organizations were. Where were the think tanks, the message machine, the newspapers, the whole infrastructure? Where were the national, well-tested ad campaigns pushing Medicare for All? Where were the free screenings of Sicko at major movie theaters across the nation, complete with sponsored food & drink for those who attended and signed up to take action? Where were the mid-cycle ads done by Madison Avenue professionals targeting specific Senators and making them deeply uncomfortable? Where, in effect, was the message campaign?
Right now we can have the satisfaction of standing up for our principles and doing our best to kill a bill that doesn't give us everything we want and need right now. And the conservatives will smirk and laugh because they knew they could count on us to shoot ourselves in the foot. Remember, they WANT to block reform. If we can't deliver anything, it is a huge win for them - and it is one we will have given them. Again.
When conservatives fail to meet their goals, they get angry - but they don't walk away. Remember, the conservative world view is not based on hope. It's based on the conviction that the world is a terrible place where, if you're not screwing someone out of something, someone is doing it to you. They expect things to go wrong, and they persist until they get what they want. They don't expect things to happen because they make sense or they're the right things to do; they expect them to happen because they are determined to make them happen.
We can throw up our hands and walk away in disgust OR, we can take what we're going to get out of this and take it for what it is: a toehold we can move on from. It's not THE victory we wanted, but it is A victory. Put enough of them together and we can start building forward momentum. The battle lines will have begun to shift.
If nothing else, we now have a much clearer view of our own weaknesses and shortcomings. We now can see more clearly how and where the Democratic party needs to be changed and reformed if we are going to do better in the fights coming up. We can hold the people supposedly elected by our efforts accountable when they don't deliver, and keep the pressure on.
It's not over and it will never be over - but we can start moving in the right direction again. It's all about Forward Momentum.
December 19, 2009, 3:55 PM
The insincere center
Matthew Yglesias makes a good point: The health care bill
represents a return, after fifteen years, of the idea that congress should be trying to pass major legislation that tackles major national problems. And even beyond that, it restores an even longer-lost tradition of congress trying to pass major legislation on specifically progressive priorities.
More than that, it represents a rejection of the view that the solution for all problems is to cut some taxes and remove some regulations. In that sense, what’s happening now, for all the disappointment it represents for progressives, is a historic moment.
And let’s also not fail to take note of those who had a chance to join in this historic moment, and punted.