For months, while most progressives united around a public option - the second-best choice to provide the "universal, affordable health care" Barack Obama repeatedly said America needed - the Republicans and their enablers in the Democratic Party, including, of course, Senator Joe Lieberman, attacked the idea. And attacked other elements of the health insurance legislation in the House and Senate.
Real reform - the single-payer choice that actually would have provided affordable, universal health coverage - was off the table from the beginning. That was thanks to an informal agreement among Republicans, most congressional Democrats, the White House, the insurance companies and the drug companies. Even most left-progressives accepted early on that there would be no way this could happen. So they compromised in hopes of an inclusive public option.
Over time the public option was eviscerated by the Party of No-gotiators, Lieberman and the other butchers. From inclusive to robust to weak, the public option was transformed into a shadow of its former self. Nonetheless, disappointed though they were, progressives hung on, supporting the legislation while lamenting every flash of the knife applied to it.
Dr. Howard Dean, without whose rebellion six years ago there might never have been a resurgence of the Democratic Party, stuck by the legislation as long as it appeared possible that even a fragile public option would be included. Urged everyone else to do likewise. As did all the major progressive bloggers. As did the members of the House Progressive Caucus, even when the President reneged on his promise to meet with them prior to his September speech on the issue.
When it became clear to even the most hopeful of hopers that the public option was dead beyond reviving, the Medicare buy-in was proposed. For young Americans, it was not such a great alternative, but it was still progress of a sort, and many progressives, in particular, Dr. Dean, supported it, eager to keep the legislation alive.
Clearly on a roll, the Party of No-gotiators and, of course, Lieberman and a few other Dems said, nuh-uh to this latest compromise.
All through this debacle, the White House didn't corner Lieberman and give him a what-for as was once the case during last year's campaign. Instead, the Senator got a pass.
On the other hand, after supporting the bill through thick and thin and biting the bullet after the public option was axed, Dean got the blowtorch treatment from the President's spokesman. Just as left-progressives are getting it now.
It's not that all progressives must always be on the same page. We disagree among ourselves on a range of issues in part because "progressive" is not so easily defined when you dig deeper into the issues and political strategies. Arguing with each other is not unhealthy, even though the arguments often get loud and sometimes nasty. Under the best of circumstances we learn from each other if we're willing to listen.
Candidate Barack Obama repeatedly said that he would listen to all sides and take ideas from all sides. We left-progressives knew from the start that this didn't mean everything we wanted would happen, not even a quarter of it. But being listened to after decades in the wilderness under both Republicans and Democrats sounded like progress.
However, repeatedly, on issue after issue, Barack Obama listens to and talks to the right, the center-right, the center, and the center-left. As he should. On rare occasions, even a right winger has a good idea. The left, on the other hand, can't seem to get his ear. And yet, now that the end game on health coverage reform has arrived and we say, "you know this thing sucks so bad it's probably not worth voting for in its present form," it's not the No-gotiators or Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson or Blanche Lincoln or the insurance companies that get blamed for standing in the way of reform. You know, the people and corporations who still aren't done gutting this legislation.
Nah. Not them. It's us. It's our fault and Howard Dean's fault and the fault of all the people who swallowed hard and accepted an ever-weaker bill until it became too weak. Our fault.
We get the message.