In case you were wondering why single-payer hasn't passed into law, I wanted to let you know that I am the reason. Even though I support single-payer health care, I have not spent much time on Open Left advocating for it. As such, single-payer has not passed because of me.
Here is what could have happened:
The path was pretty straightforward. It is common knowledge that there is an unstoppable corps of left-wing activists who can force Congress into passing left-wing legislation. However, in order to mobilize that corps, bloggers need to advocate for positions that corps likes. Once they do, the left-wing activist corps will spring into gear and get the job done. But they won't do it until bloggers advocate for it.
- Progressive blogs and email organizations advocate for single payer all the time every day;
- This advocacy leads to millions of progressive activists attending rallies and contacting members of Congress on behalf of single-payer;
- Members of Congress are so scared of these activists, they pass single-payer into law.
I first noticed this when I appeared on Hardball criticizing President-elect Obama for loading his cabinet with moderates. The marches on Washington, D.C. that resulted my appearance left him no option but to appoint real progressives from there on out. I could have done the same thing for single-payer, but I didn't. Here is what I did instead:
Snark tags off in the extended entry.
- I convinced the tens of millions of progressive activists who are familiar with the work of Jacob Hacker that, while Congress was not going to pass single-payer, Democrats could pass a public option that would cover 130 million Americans. Like most public option advocates, I wrote about that all the time during 2007 and 2008, just around the same time that Hacker was becoming a household name.
- While I was unable to voice my opposition to Hacker's proposal at the time due to his overwhelming popularity among progressive activists, I was engaged in behind the scenes maneuvering with the chairs of the relevant House and Senate committees to introduce legislation with a much weaker public option. Since I can't stomach 130 million people being covered by the public option, I instead successfully persuaded the committee chairs to introduce legislation that would only cover around 10 million Americans. It was necessary for me to do this behind the scenes, because otherwise the Hacker legions would know that I was using them.
- By lying to the Hacker legions like this, I was able to harness some of their activism on behalf of the weaker public option. Unfortunately, most of these activists saw through the lie and as a result we were out organized in town halls in August anyway. Foiled again!
|Actually, that isn't what happened at all. It does seem to be what some single-payer advocates think happened, but it isn't.
If you are upset at me because I am a single-payer supporter who didn't do much single-payer advocacy, well I'm sorry about that. I wish I knew how to pass single-payer into law--or a carbon tax, or to end the war in Afghanistan, or an expansion of Social Security--but I don't. That isn't bullshit--I really wish I knew, but I don't.
I have spent the last few months trying to increase progressive power in Congress. This effort is centered around a new strategy I call "The Progressive Block," and yes the k is intentional. Basically, the strategy is for House Progressives--reinforced by the netroots--joining with Republicans to block must-pass Democratic legislation unless we get some real concessions in return for passage. I didn't develop this strategy--it bubbled up from discussions online about drawing a line on health care early in 2009, and from earlier online discussions about building progressive power. In March, the new House Progressive co-chair, Raul Grijalva, brought the idea to the single-payer advocates of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, who then voted to draw that line on a Medicare-like public option. At around the same time, Darcy Burner was brought in to help organize the effort both short-term and long-term. A test run of sorts took place in May and June on Afghanistan war supplemental funding. At that time, House Progressives, aided by Fire Dog Lake and other bloggers, worked to remove IMF funding from the supplemental bill. It didn't quite work, but in delaying the Democratic leadership by a couple weeks it did at least show potential.
In addition to selling the strategy, my part of that effort has been working with Democracy for America, HCAN and state bloggers to try and show that 50 Senators support a public option. Combined with the Progressive Block in the House--which Blue America, MoveOn and many blogs are working to reinforce--and combined with primary challenges to key Senators like Michael Bennet and Arlen Specter, our goal is to make it easier to pass a public option into law than to not pass a public option into law. As of two weeks ago, 34,827 activists have taken action in our part of that effort. I am humbled, excited, and honored by everyone who did so. Thank you!
This is the best idea and the broadest effort I encountered to try and make the federal government more responsive to progressives in the long-term, and to try and improve the health care bill in the short-term. It certainly struck me as more attractive and workable than just writing blog posts explaining why single-payer is so great. Feel free to disagree with that assessment. In fact, feel free to disagree with strategy discussions altogether. If you think what I did was somehow wrong, I can live with that. I honestly believe I am involved in the best effort progressives have going right now, and I also believe I did the best I could to help make it happen. If you think I somehow hurt the cause, then I am sorry. If it turns out not to be successful, then I am really, really sorry about that. Maybe we should have gone in a different direction, but we can't turn around at this point in this particular fight. There will be time for re-evaluation afterward, but for now we can only keep pushing ahead.