I’ve written a few times about the "Overton Window" and even spoke on a panel at Netroots Nation about this topic a few years ago (note – if you don’t know what the Overton Window is, you can read about it here). And the one thing that I heard frequently from detractors or non-believers is that it works for the right because the right lies or is disingenuous or whatever else, but it can’t possibly work for those of us on the left.
But this whole debate over health care/health insurance reform shows exactly how the Overton Window can be used on the left – the thing is – so many people took sides and dug their heels in that very few even realized how it was working in this very debate.
I’m not going to mention anyone’s name in particular because it is counterproductive, but I will say that FireDogLake has done an incredibly valuable service that many people are overlooking because of certain specific individuals and some (not even most) of their actions. For my purpose here in this diary, I’ll just call them part of the left flank.
And here is my personal experience with the left flank on the health care issue, and how it succeeded in a way that not enough give credit for. And while there are some things that "the left flank" did which I don’t agree with, there are a number of things that those who attacked the left flank (including attacking me) which I don’t agree with at all either.
Over the past few months, I’ve been blogging quite a bit at Blue Jersey, mainly about the recent Governor’s race, but also a lot about the healthcare issues and the specific Democratic Congressmen (all men) in NJ. And within the numerous posts about health care included not one but two very important initiatives that originated with FireDogLake (and others on the "left flank") that served to push the Overton Window to the left.
At the beginning of the debate on health care, single payer was taken off the table and it was looking like the House bills may not contain any public option. Hell, the term "public option" was foreign to most Americans and was sort of a "taboo" to many who knew what it was all about (remember how it was attacked early on and throughout the summer teabagging town halls?). And while the "left flank" pushed and pushed very hard for the public option to be included, one of these initiatives was to "Whip the public option" and see if we could get Represenatives to commit to vote against a bill without a public option. In fact, as a result of this, Rep. Rush Holt committed to vote against such a bill on BlueJersey Radio. Later on, a "carrots, not sticks" initiative was rolled out by the left flank to thank those who bravely took this pledge - raising a good amount of money for those who stood up for progressive values.
And none other than MASH’s "BJ Huneycutt", Mike Farrell did a video piece through the left flank thanking Blue Jersey for our hard work in this area.
Now, there were some things that were done by members of FireDogLake (doesn’t matter who they are, and no, it wasn’t Jane) that I didn’t like and I was vocal about it at the time.
But the larger point is that the health care debate NEEDED TO BE MOVED TO THE LEFT. And while there were way too many people who defended whatever was being done by the Obama administration, shouting down anyone who disagreed, a great service was being done by those who helped pull the discussion to the left, and even were able to make great strides in making certain things acceptable, included in the House bill, excluded from the Senate bill or countering the lies of the right.
I’m no fan of the Senate bill, quite frankly. And I am a (relative) fan of the House bill. I’ll probably be very very disappointed with what ultimately is passed (as I have not been shy about discussing throughout).
But to fail to recognize that the left flank not only exists, but exists to pull the discussion to the left and most importantly, has worked beautifully in doing so in this debate is a travesty that should be pointed out. And regardless of what you personally think of any specific individual or the overall bill, I think that proper credit should be given to those who have proved that the Overton Window can be used incredibly effectively by the left.