Every now and then, a political insider will say something that exposes the real truth about the nauseating state of American politics. Here's one today, in a Washington Post story about how the Obama administration is trying to crush legislation allowing Americans to purchase lower-priced FDA-approved medicines from other industrialized nations - legislation that President Obama promised to support as a presidential candidate (and that Rahm Emanuel championed as a House member); legislation that would save the government and consumers $100 billion:
"It's about being a candidate as opposed to being president," said Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).
As I suggested yesterday in my post about the attacks on Matt Taibbi, you hear this kind of bullshit all the time. Most recently, we heard it straight from the Obama White House itself, when New York Times writer John Harwood quoted a top White House aide lashing out at progressives who were demanding Obama at least try to fulfill his basic campaign promises. "Those bloggers need to take off their pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely-divided country is complicated and difficult," the aide said.
This is standard fare from from the Beltway insiders in The Chuch of the Savvy. Their catechism says that the public is naive and stupid to believe that a president will even try to deliver on the promises he/she made to voters as a candidate. And really, more than naive and stupid - but unrealistic and unserious, because there supposedly must be some sort of difference between what you tell voters you will try to do as president and what you can even attempt to do as president. We are expected to believe that those who don't accept this aren't patriotic believers in basic democracy, but actually like sad, petulant children who refuse "take off their pajamas and get dressed."
It's a canard, of course - one designed to justify selling out and betraying voters (in this case, coming straight from a drug lobbyist). And the real problem with it beyond one or another issue is that it takes a big steaming shit on the entire concept of republican democracy. In that kind of system, we only get to choose our representatives once every two or four years. That forces us to rely on the campaign promises of those representatives as metrics for making our choices. Thus, if the entire idea of the campaign promise becomes an assumed joke, then we have zero metrics on which to elect our government.
There is no substantive reason why what a president cannot push what he promises on the campaign trail - especially when it comes to something like pharmaceutical reimportation, which every other industrialized country has legalized. I repeat - there is simply no substantive reason why a president cannot push what he has promised on the campaign trail. The platitudes from corporate lobbyists insisting that the alleged difference between "campaigning and governing" somehow absolves politicians from breaking their promise is deliberately designed to perpetuate the status quo.