Yesterday, I argued that if progressive organizations and members were able to successfully defeat the health care bill, the main short-term political ramification would be a much tougher road for progressive and Progressive candidates in congressional primaries in 2010. This conclusion is based on the White House's demonstrated willingness to play hardball against Progressives / progressives, and the ongoing support that the White House--and its policies--have among the Democratic and liberal rank and file.
If Progressives and progressives were to defeat the health care bill, it would provide an opening for the White House--which has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to enter into primaries--to outflank progressive and Progressive candidates in primaries with more right-wing candidates. With the backing of the White House, those more right-wing candidates could argue against progressive and Progressive candidates who opposed the health care bill, and as a result win the liberal, Democratic rank and file that still overwhelmingly supports both the bill and the White House.
Mika Brzezinski: I won't name names, but I heard it from several people in the Administration: Howard Dean, very not pleased, with Dr. Dean speaking out about health care reform and this plan.
Savannah Guthrie: Yeah, very irritated. Yes, isn't it fascinating they don't seem to be too angry at Lieberman, they're reserving their fervor for Howard Dean, but actually, one senior official who I talked to this morning paid the highest insult which was to call him irrelevant to the entire health care debate.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), among the most vocal supporters of the public option, said it would be unfair to blame Lieberman for its apparent demise. Feingold said that responsibility ultimately rests with President Barack Obama and he could have insisted on a higher standard for the legislation.
"This bill appears to be legislation that the president wanted in the first place, so I don't think focusing it on Lieberman really hits the truth," said Feingold. "I think they could have been higher. I certainly think a stronger bill would have been better in every respect."
"Snowe? Stupak? Lieberman? Who left these people in charge? It's time for the President to get his hands dirty. Some of us have compromised our compromised compromise. We need the President to stand up for the values our party shares. We must stop letting the tail wag the dog of this debate."
The White House has enormous potential leverage against either progressive or conservative Democrats in Congress. Far more often than not, they have chosen to use that leverage against progressives, but not against conservatives. This puts progressive organizations that seek to block moves by the White House in the almost impossible position of having to out-organize the Obama administration among the self-identified liberal and Democratic rank and file.
As one of the leading left-wing critics of the Obama administration's transition appointments in November and December of 2008, I am intimately familiar with the isolation that such opposition can create. If I had a solution for it, I would have implemented it by now. However, as I said yesterday, the only solution I can think of right now is to sit out the remaining health care fight, not attack the progressives who are trying to defeat the health care bill, "hang out in the tall grass for a while" and look ahead to future fights. I know that is pretty dissatisfying, but it is the best I can think of right now.