Two regrets on the public option campaign

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Dec 21, 2009 at 17:18

Last week I argued that the only reason the public option campaign went down to defeat in the Senate was because a few Senators lied to us.

I stand by that analysis, but it still leaves me with a couple of regrets about the campaign:

1. We should have been throwing everything at getting health care done through reconciliation from the start.  If the only reason we lost is because a few Senators lied, then we should have been pushing just as hard for reconciliation as anything else in the fight. If there are bad-faith actors in the caucus, then the goal should have been to remove their influence over the process altogether.  That would have meant  conducting a whip count to reach 51 senators in favor of using reconciliation.  We could have started it as soon as the budget passed with reconciliation on April 29th.

2. We should have pushed to expand Medicare availability, rather than create a new public option.  As popular as the public option was in polls, Medicare is even more popular.  It is also simpler to explain, and does more to build toward universal coverage through Medicare in the future.

No guarantee this would have changed anything for the better.  We may never have found 51 votes for reconciliation, and there may have been the same, long, slow fold on Medicare expansion as there was on the public option.  Still, as we look to the future, I hope any path progressives follow on health care focuses on reconciliation and expanding existing public options, rather than creating new ones.

Chris Bowers :: Two regrets on the public option campaign

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The public option went down to defeat in the Senate because (4.00 / 7)
the Democratic leadership didn't want the public option.

They wanted the bill they passed last night.  They wanted to provide a windfall to the health insurance companies.

It's the Democrat's way of saying "thank-you" for all the campaign donations they've been receiving lately.

on what facts is this statement based? (4.00 / 4)
Reid and all the moderates had an agreement to have a medicare buy-in and a weak public option. But Lieberman lied, so that was out. And this was a compromise from Reid's earlier position inclusion of a decent-ish public option, also killed by Lieberman (and maybe a couple others).

[ Parent ]
I Don't Know About Reids' Motives (4.00 / 5)
But clearly Obama wanted no public option, no drug re-importation, no lowering of Medicare eligibility. Witness his side deals with the insurance companies and Big Pharma not done out in the open, as promised in his campaign last year, but in secret. And when caught, they lied and denied.

Lesson learned, among many: Obama is a conservative Democrat who is only too happy to take money from giant corporations and carry water for them. He does it because, at the least, he believes what is right for Goldman Sachs is right for America. We need to change that dynamic.

[ Parent ]
Wrong! (4.00 / 1)
It's not a question of whether he'd personally like a public option. From his statements he clearly would. But, Obama really was convinced by people like Rahm Emanuel from the beginning that "the votes aren't there."

His deal with big-PHARMA is simply because they destroyed HCR under Clinton and Obama rationalized (probably correctly) that having EVERY corporate interest lobbying against it would give HCR ZERO chance of being enacted.

You can criticize him for hiring such people and listening to them, but essentially it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. You heard "anonymous" White House aides back in August publicly "lamenting" in the Washington Post that "the base has lached onto the public option as the beginning and end of HCR."

They were convinced that it was a non-starter with the Senate and they weren't willing to go out on a limb to fight for it. Thus they realized that angry liberals who were pushing this idea would attack them -- David Plouffe is convinced that they have the base with them on this and the net-roots are just a group of agitators causing trouble anyway.

I.e., they think they can get away with this sellout without harm. I have no idea what polls they are reading that give them that idea, when something like 40% of Democrats openly report being discouraged and are certain or possibly likely NOT to vote in 2010!

Our perspective has always been that there's no "downside" to fighting for it even if you lose, because without a decent public option or expansion of Medicare at a MINIMUM, there's really no point in HCR to begin with.

Obama is simply a pragmatist. He's not willing to go out on limbs and risk defeat to win progressive victories.

That means he is what he always was: a centrist Democrat who doesn't want to fight ideological battles. But, that doesn't make him a "corporatist."  

[ Parent ]
Sorry, Don't Buy It (4.00 / 3)
I heard Obama say he wanted a public option then did not fight for it. Actions speak louder than words. Indeed, people in the White House leaked they had no interest in the public option. Also, with the FISA vote in July 2008, it became clear to me that Obama was a regular issue conservative Democrat, despite the rhetoric. Better than McCain certainly. But nothing special beyond the nice rhetoric. Obama might like the public option but, push come to shove, he does not care enough to work hard and publicly to make it happen.

I'll grant you the pharma deal perhaps was an attempt to head off what derailed the last attempt at health care reform. However, it also fits the goals of any conservative Democrat. And it's also a rather inept negotiating tactic to give away the store in secret before letting Congress have at the pharmaceutical companies. In theory, if Obama and crew were better negotiators, they could have placated big pharma and gotten more.

You probably have better information than I about motives. I'm just a citizen reading along. The view from the outside tells me Obama is not a progressive in his actions. He had a great opportunity to shape the debate on a number of issues and has instead declined and opted to placate conservative Democrats and a few Republicans.

[ Parent ]
Who believes anything Obama says (0.00 / 0)
is a fool.

[ Parent ]
I agree with you about Medicare (4.00 / 6)
It would have been so much easier to sell! And I realize that Medicare is not perfect, but any work we might have done or might do to make Medicare better would now be benefiting not only the new enrollees but all of the current subscribers as well making it even more significant. Much of the rhetoric that was used against the public option just doesn't work when you start talking about letting people buy into Medicare.

I would really like to see that, along with improvements to Medicare, be the focus of the next effort.

"Medicare Option" (4.00 / 2)
Agreed. A much easier sell. People know exactly what Medicare is and how it works.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
And it leaves a role for private insurers (0.00 / 0)
in supplemental and designer insurance.  It protects them from all the really high cost patience which is what they want.  

[ Parent ]
drop the 'option' (4.00 / 1)
medicare for all 50/55+, at least as a starting negotiation point

use the 'companies are afraid to hire those people now but if they have health insurance...' talking point

[ Parent ]
the only downside (4.00 / 1)
is that the GOP would have launched a huge scare campaign aimed at seniors, with the message that expanding Medicare = diluting benefits to current seniors. Medicare is popular, but I don't think it's far-fetched to imagine that reliably voting seniors would be susceptible to that kind of scare campaign.

Join the Iowa progressive community at Bleeding Heartland.

[ Parent ]
didn't they do that? (4.00 / 2)
I don't think the GOP can portray itself as the medicare protector in a successful fashion when it keeps hammering medicare/ss every day

[ Parent ]
What about starting with a stronger demand? (4.00 / 8)
Medicare for all, or something like it? As with every damn legislative fight, liberal Democrats seem to start from a position of what they hope to get at the end, a surefire way to lose the debate every time.  

Would have been better than 'single payer...' (4.00 / 1)
...which was the non-starter framing of choice.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
Yes, (4.00 / 1)
"single-payer" is about as exciting as "S-CHIP."  Who the frick knows what the hell that means, unless they spend a few hours a day studying the issue?

Dems have learned nothing about framing since Lakoff's hard-hitting piece many years ago.

[ Parent ]
"Cramdown" (4.00 / 1)
OT, but this is another policy framing FAIL. Still being used as the primary policy name. Policy still going nowhere fast...

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
If you think single-payer died (4.00 / 3)
because of poor framing, you are high.

I will be the first to admit that Democrats leave a lot to be desired when it comes to messaging.  But single-payer is a lousy example.

Single-payer didn't die because of a lack of public support or because of poor framing.  It died because the insurance industry bribed the Democratic Party to kill it. It could have been called "Freedom Care" and it would be just as dead today.

[ Parent ]
We'll never know. (0.00 / 0)
I kind of like "Freedom Care."  I'll take some, with a side helping of Freedom Fries.

[ Parent ]
By the way, (4.00 / 2)
I AM high--and loving it!  Go medical marijuana, woooohoooo!  BTW, got any Cheetos, man?

[ Parent ]
Not what I meant (4.00 / 1)
I don't contend that a simple framing change = victory. I'm just saying that Medicare-for-all is a much more understandable concept than single payer. It might have developed a stronger following, stronger public support. The concession of single payer brought nothing because it never taken seriously, mostly because it didn't have any significant public support.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
You can only start with a stronger demand (4.00 / 5)
The only way to start with a stronger demand is to elect people who make stronger policy proposals.

We started with the proposals that the people we elected offered. If we want start from a stronger position, we have to elect people who start with stronger demands.

[ Parent ]
Or if you got people in the streets (4.00 / 2)
making enough noise.

Which we don't, at this time.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Been a while since that did the trick (4.00 / 4)
At least for our side, no matter how large our numbers.

Protests still need a favorable media, which we clearly do not have.

[ Parent ]
How, exactly would that change anything? (0.00 / 0)
This game was always going to play out exactly as it did.  Lieberman, Nelson, et al, had complete control of the situation.  They did at the beginning, and at the end.  That was the basic structure of the negotiation, and nothing could change that.

[ Parent ]
They got their pound of flesh (4.00 / 3)
off a skinny calf. Or something like that. I.e., if we'd started by insisting on "medicare for all," then it gets watered down in committee to a strong public option, then lieberman does his double cross and we end up with a weak public option or the medicare buy-in or whatever as the final outcome. Liberals would be just as pissed as they are now; Lieberman'd be just as smug as he is now; but the bill would be better.

[ Parent ]
No, it wouldn't. (0.00 / 0)
It would have been watered down exactly the same way.

It's pure fantasy to think otherwise.  Liberman & Co would have killed any public option.  It doesn't matter what came out of committee.  It doesn't matter what the prologue.  They had the power, and the line they were going to draw was never in doubt.

[ Parent ]
I thought it was in doubt (4.00 / 1)
when we had a standing agreement to keep the medicare buy-in, plus a weak triggered public option. Then Lieberman turned around and lied and the deal fell through - not because Lieberman is corrupt, as near as anyone can tell, or because of principle, but just because he's an enormous dickhead. But if he'd been an enormous dickhead when a strong PO was still on the table, rather than just the medicare buy-in, something better would've come out of it - maybe not the PO, but the medicare buy-in, or maybe a bigger medicaid expansion. Who knows.

[ Parent ]
The dynamic was always set in stone. (0.00 / 0)
There were a handful of Senators who would control the vote.  Those Senators would take the risk of killing any bill if it did not suit the desires of the insurance industry.  The progress of how it unfolded, and when Lieberman flipped or when Nelson got bought off was just detail: this would be a bill written by the minions of the insurance industry, and, absent reconciliation, there was pretty much no possibility that the public option would be in the final Senate bill.

I figured this would be the result when Obama prevailed in the primary.  I was a die-hard Clinton supporter.  Clinton was as corporate as they come, but there was absolutely no way in hell she would have taken the hands off approach to healthcare that Obama did.  Obama, it was clear to me from day one, didn't really give a shit about anything - most particularly healthcare reform.  He is a man of no principles whatsoever, and no causes.  For some reason, lefties wanted to elect this gaseous pop culture icon.  Obama didn't have the guts to support reconciliation, which was the only path to real reform.

There isn't any way to game the system at this point.  Obama is never going to take a progressive position on anything.  The Republicans can count on a few "moderates" like Lieberman to water down any bill.  The Democrats won't eliminate the filibuster, and won't use reconciliation.  This is our world.  We have the choice of no bill, or a grossly watered down version of the original proposal, on every issue.  If we sit out elections, it gets even worse.  

[ Parent ]
They can still do both if the House insists (4.00 / 4)
There's no requirement that health care all be completed in one bill. RT from quick hits comment on Feingold:

Just because they pass this bill doesn't mean they can't do another, PO bill, through reconciliation. With the insurance reforms already dealt with, a reconciliation bill could be narrowly focused on a PO and/or opening up Medicare and expedited for passage.

For its own institutional integrity and viability, the House must act as if it is the 61st Senator on a vote the requires 61 for passage. Lieberman, Nelson et al cannot be allowed to effectively eliminate half of Article I of the Constitution.

A PO/Medicare buy-in included in conference or enacted via reconciliation. That's what the House should demand in exchange for the 61st vote.


Lastly, I am troubled that some Senators believe that the House must accept the majority of the concessions embodied in this Senate bill. My message to the these Senators is this: Just as it took compromise to pass your bill last night, so now will it require additional compromise to successfully reconcile your legislation with the House. The Constitution established a bicameral legislature so that neither body would dominate the other.

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

It was never about procedure (4.00 / 7)
It is a terrible mistake to think that this was ever about procedure or getting to 60 votes rather than 51.  Please.  If it went the reconciliation route, then a bunch of other Blue Dogs would have come out of the woodwork (e.g. Bayh) and suddenly 51 would have required the exact same compromises.

I think that a lot of Democrats still don't get how much these Senators are bought.  This was never about trying to convince individual Senators about the merits of the policy.  Please.  We had self-described "deficit hawks" opposing all the cost-containment provisions.  THAT doesn't tell people something?

This was ALWAYS about negotiating a deal with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries.  If the industries can live with the deal, 60 votes materialize. If they can't, you can't get the votes.  Screw pressuring Snowe or Nelson or Lieberman.  They will do what the lobbyists tell them to do.

This needs to be repeated (4.00 / 2)
" We had self-described "deficit hawks" opposing all the cost-containment provisions.  THAT doesn't tell people something?"

This is why I no longer trust anything that comes out of the Democrats at this point. Too much Orwellian up is down, right is left, black is white from them.  

[ Parent ]
Look to the future? (4.00 / 4)
As long as we have the same players or worse, why should the future be any better?  Insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results.  Hoping for better rsults the next time is insanity. Chris said that rarely does an unpopular bill get passed into law.  This bill was unpopular, inefficient, and costly.

I trust Ben Nelson about as far as I could throw the entire University of Nebraska football team by myself.  Bruhrabbit is correct in identifying the villains and in describing their fraud.  After this, Obama and friends actually have the nerve to go ahead and attack fraud and excess spending?  

[ Parent ]
Frankly it is not just about people like Nelson (0.00 / 0)
I lump people into too big categories. They are somewhat unfair, but mostly accurate- bad faith actors and enablers. That is what Dc is. Most people follow into that later category. I am not even sure waiting will mater. I just know the actors involved- whether progressives in Congress or groups or bloggers enable the bad faith actors to do what they do. I simply can not see in this present environment with the exact same actors anything change soon because the actors are all the same. So why expected different behavior from them? I answer that question with they won't act differently or can't.  I see Obama as more of an enabler.  

[ Parent ]
OK, bruh (4.00 / 1)
So what is it you're trying to achieve here actually?  Get everyone to wait ten or fifteen years with you?  

I'm all for understanding as much as we can, and I see that we both uprated Mr. Space here,  But it's hard for me to see what you're advocating as any different or more effective than crying in your beer.  I mean, we could say we fought a fucking civil war and still we have racism in this country.  At the end of the day, you have to go on.  

Liberal politicians are like the Energizer Bunny.  They keep rolling along.  There have to be easier ways of making a living.  Their very survival in their jobs demands a bending of any notion of steadfast morality.  And yet, they're not giving up, but you are.  That should also tell you something.    

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
To you, I am not advocating anything (0.00 / 0)
I have a good friend who knows I come online. She says don't waste my time with someone who frames what I am saying like you just did. You aren't reading to comprehend what I am saying. It has nothing to do with smarts. It has to do with a desire to listen, and based on your response, that's not you.  

[ Parent ]
That is absurd (4.00 / 1)
And so, if it only required 40 votes, then according to you the rug would have been pulled out from under us again, right? And the same with 30? And the same thing with 15?

The underlying assumption behind your post is that every single supporter of the public option in Congress was lying.  In reality, not a single member of Congress supported it.

The only way the number of votes didn't matter is if there wasn't a single supporters of the public option in Congress.

Of course the number of votes you need for passage matters.

[ Parent ]
Doesn't their voting behavior tell us who they are more than (0.00 / 0)
what they may or may not believe in their heart of hearts. In the case of the progressives in the Senate why did they not threaten a) filibuster and b) why would they wait until it is too late like Senator Feingold did to say that the administration never fought for the public option.  If as you say, they wanted it, why can we find no real evidence in their behavior? Since people who tend to want something acting like Lieberman and Nelson did.  

[ Parent ]
And if they were all exactly like Lieberman and Nelson (4.00 / 1)
Then they would have all acted exactly like Lieberman and Nelson.

They are all tolerating this behavior. But that doesn't make Russ Feingold Joe Lieberman.

[ Parent ]
Or, to rephrase (0.00 / 0)
Most of them are tolerating this behavior. 13 Senators did vote to strip Lieberman of his seniority.

[ Parent ]
And my point is if you don't like (0.00 / 0)
what soeone  is doing, and you truly want something, then you don't tolerate those who get in your way. I am as I told you learning now to be more ruthless and trust me, I undrstand how hard it is, but sometimes you have to just push for whatyou want evne if the outcome is uncertain. I simply don't sense this is al that important to progressives in Congress because they don't act like it is.  

[ Parent ]
That's not what I mean Chris (4.00 / 1)
I am discussing how Lieberman/Nelson negotiation tactics were not used by progressives toward progressive ends. I am not discussing how they should have used them toward Lieberman/Nelson policy ends. That would be absurd.

What I find frustrating about "progressive" is how much  you confuse behavioral choices that you personal decide to act upon with wanted outcomes in terms of policy that result from those personal behavior choices.  My point is I would rather have the other side complaining about how much we are dicks and asshole than to hear the whining about how the conservadems are jerks and assholes.

LBJ was nasty and mean, but that does not change the value of the Great Society. As I said, I lump much of DC now into two categories- bad actors and enablers. When I discuss acting as if you really want a policy, that means breaking the cycle of enabling the bad faith actor. At the of the day, they can tell me until they blue in the face that they wanted the public option. However, the truth is found in the choices they made when it counted. They choose not to threaten filibuster. They choose to avoid reconciliation. They choose to keep silent about Obama's behind the scenes behavior versus the public image craft. These are choices. They are not reflective of whether one is on the left or right.

Even in criminal law, one is entitled to act in self defense when one is being threatened. Even if that self defense is killing another person so long as that person is trying to kill you. The point of this analogy is not, of course,that we were in a kill or be killed situation, but that appropriate action on their part should have been escalation if they truly wanted the public option.

I sense this is a want like I prefer the color blue to green. Yeah, it is something I prefer, but it is not something I am really going to fight you over.  Whereas, the conservadems are willing to fight for it, and use whatever means is necessary to get it.  

[ Parent ]
What Opposing Force? (4.00 / 2)
For me, the most interesting outcome of the whole health care debate this year is that progressives, for all their advantages, do not have the ability (so far, hopefully will change) to harness the outrage of average people to corporate giveaways. Lieberman et al do what they do in large part because they are able to mask or even hide what they do from the voters. Proof? Much of the corporate giveaways screw the voters who vote them in.

Progressives have, and will have for the foreseeable future, the opportunity and the obligation to call bullshit on what Lieberman did. It helps that his actions got a lot of media attention. It helps that many people like Dean, Sirota, and Senators got camera time to call Lieberman out. But we need to turn these opportunities into an opposing force that then calls for Medicare for All. And then do the same for financial reform and climate action. We need to find ways to set the agenda, even if we don't dominate the agenda (the Republicans to date will always outgun us). We just need to be heard loud enough and long enough for the public to hear us and get our message.

For me, progressives were not entirely prepared for this battle and I see it as a learning experience to find out our weaknesses as a movement. I wanted Medicare for All and believed, still believe, that is the easiest sell and should have been pushed by progressives in the media months before Obama got going in March or April when the President and Congress showed up to say single payer was off the table. We should have built public support for the Medicare for All option first. Now perhaps we should push Medicare for All as a way to fix the worst parts of this health care bill, if/when it passes, to make it the next natural step.

And Chris, isn't this the place where someone (I forget who) accuses you of bad faith in NOW promoting Medicare for All? Or was it single payer? I get my fights and options mixed up here at Open Left. 8-)

[ Parent ]
opposing can simply mean saying (0.00 / 0)
n o to whatever the other guys says.

[ Parent ]
You theoriza as though the public option is the only thing (0.00 / 0)
Yeah, maybe that would work if those members of Congress only wanted a public option, and there was nothing else either they, or their constituents, wanted.

No one in Congress was elected just to get a public option passed.  And that's why you don't see the kind of incredibly abstract behavior you suggest.

[ Parent ]
And if they were acting aggressively in other areas (0.00 / 0)
 on a consistent basic, I might believe that.  You pretend as if this is the only big item that they act like this own rather than a pattern of behavior. Or, am are you now saying this behavior is a one-off for progressives? That they have never acted like this prior to this debate?

[ Parent ]
There are serious consequences for crossing Obama as a progressive (4.00 / 1)
It's a point I have tried to make numerous times--one of the reasons you don't see that kind of aggressive behavior is because Obama dominates almost all progressive politicians among the voters and supporters those politicians need the most.

Let's look over your options in detail, though:

1--I really don't think calling Obama out more earlier in the process would have helped the PO supporters in Congress. It would have just faded into the ether, or been rebutted by the White House, creating a he said she said.  And the supporters of the White House--which happen to be a supermajority of progressives--would have believed the White House.

2--People did threaten to filibuster. However, any progressive who actually filibustered this bill would have never won re-election.

3--As for reconciliation, I agree that was a mistake.  However, that was also a mistake on the part of all the organizations pushing the bill.  There wasn't much focus on reconcilation until it was too late.  No one ever put together a whip count campaign.

I appreciate your specific suggestions for increasing aggressiveness. The only one that I think would have worked is reconciliation. But earlier in this thread you were supporting arguments that pushing reconciliation would not have mattered, so I don't even know if that was a serious suggestion on your part.

[ Parent ]
Don't see it (4.00 / 2)
Democratic House members ran ahead of Obama.  The losing candidates ran behind generally.  The huge majority of progressive seats are incredibly safe.  People had no problem crossing Bill Clinton despite the fact that he was, for most of his tenure, more popular than Obama is now.

I would stand up, cheer and donate to lefties who stand up to Obama.

If, as is likely, the economy is still lousy a year from now, standing up at least ocassionally to Obama might be a safety valve.  He's not God.  I don't think he's much of a President either to this point because he only knows how to hammer the left.  

Maybe some black members of the House need to stay on his good side.  I don't think we'll ever be able to dump him in a primary.  But there is no reason for many members to be scared of him.

[ Parent ]
Really? (4.00 / 4)
However, any progressive who actually filibustered this bill would have never won re-election.

The WH would really mount an expensive primary challenge against Barbara Boxer and is guaranteed success? With the sad-sack Democratic political bench in CA? Or somehow engineer the election of Carly Fiorina? And I'm no expert on Vermont politics, but isn't Bernie Sanders almost a political institution up there?

Self-refuting Christine O'Donnell is proof monkeys are still evolving into humans

[ Parent ]
re: threat (4.00 / 3)
2--People did threaten to filibuster. However, any progressive who actually filibustered this bill would have never won re-election.

I don't think it would've gone so far (re-election)

I think no votes would've pushed obama to reconciliation

obama didn't want a po but he didn't want a hc fail more

we should've and should use this now

[ Parent ]
Well now we get into the fears that I mention (4.00 / 1)
a) Russ Feingold would not have been re-elected if he threatened to veto the bill, but the Conservadems would? What about the other liberals in the Senate? They were all, including Bernie Sanders subject to this danger? And, by the way, if this is true, that says something again about the nature of how they are enablers. Enablers are indeed afraid of repercussions like this. In other words, it is not that they think this is even a bill that should pass, it is that they are afraid to cross President Obama. IS this an accurate assessment of what you are saying?

b) We will never know what a conservative progressive effort regarding push back against the White House would have been. We also don't know what a threat to the White House without actually doing it would have been. Assumedly, did they even think to threaten this?

c) Reconciliation- and it is on this point that I question progressive thinking. Why didn't you think of this? Who sits around for months watching the process that was going down, and not think 'How can we strategically address this issue in a way that favors us rather than in a way that favors the Conservadems? Why as late as a few weeks ago was Mike Lux defending Harry Reid's decisions (as far as I remember) to take reconciliation off the table. Let's say I buy your argument about early thoughts, as time went by- what happened with your coordination with your contacts on this issue? Why didn't anyone do a whip count? Doesn't that strike you as odd?

d) I  don't know where you see that I said that I was against an agressive act like reconcilliation. If I did say that, it was either a mistake or I was making a different point than not pursuing a more aggressive stance since that's universally my thesis here and else. Well, that and the Democratic leadership is captured right now by neoliberal ideology that over the next decade will harm its electoral chances rather than help it solidify its natural demographic majority (but that's off point).  

[ Parent ]
Not exactly (4.00 / 3)
Obviously at a certain point you start reaching Senators who  will be difficult for the insurance industry to direct.  What is the number of Democrats who actually wanted a bill with real premium-reducing provisions, whether single-payer, robust public option, strict industry regulation and price controls?  I'm not a psychic so it is speculation, but lets say it is 25-40.  We aren't even close to that point.  

The rest are just spouting rhetoric, knowing that Nelson and Lieberman are going to do the dirty work.

Here is the difference between grassroots voters and lobbyists.  Lobbyists don't give a fuck about voting scorecards, or politicians' personal convictions, or "trying hard" or bipartisanship.  Lobbyists don't care about moral victories. Lobbyists care about results.

This is why asking Lieberman or Nelson to not filibuster the bill and just vote against it is a pointless exercise.  Do you think the insurance lobby would give a damn if Nelson  or Lieberman voted against a final bill that included a robust public option if the bill passed?  

The lobbyists are more than happy to let Landrieu and Bayh and Reid and Baucus and probably a good dozen or more Democrats happily vote for cloture and not harm their reputations as long as Nelson and Lieberman can do the heavy lifting, along with Snowe and Collins providing a secondary, bipartisan, reason for the leadership to capitulate.  But if, for whatever reason, the Dems only needed 51 votes, you can bet your ass that a handful of other Democrate would immediately materialize.

This happens all the time when lobbyists want a bill passed.  Democrats vote for cloture and then vote against the bill, which just passes thanks to the GOP and maybe one or two unhelpful Blue Dogs.  The lobbyists got what they wanted and the Dem Senator could go back to his or her constituents and say they gave it the "ol' college try" but golly gee, there just weren't the votes to stop it on the up or down vote.

Unlike voters, lobbyists tend not to fall for that hokey nonsense.  

[ Parent ]
And the bill was written by the lobbyists (4.00 / 2)
Something like 600 million dollars was spent on influencing the language of this bill. That's why I laugh when people say we are getting some kind of regulatory reform. No, you are getting lobbyists moving the loopholes from one part of the health insurance industry economy to a new one.  

[ Parent ]
You are the one spouting rhetoric (4.00 / 1)
And very speculative rhetotic, at that.

The fact is that getting 51 votes is a lot easier than getting 60.  For anything.  And so, whether or not there are 51 votes, getting that number would have been easier than getting 60.

We have to reduce the number of progressive votes we need wherever possible. It doesn't mean we will win every time, but we will have a better chance.

[ Parent ]
Fuggit, man, (0.00 / 0)
let's just lay down and die, I guess...

Or, maybe we can try to figure out a way to combat these bought Senators.

[ Parent ]
Disagree on #1, but I agree on #2 (4.00 / 1)
I doubt #1 would have made any real difference.  The senate required 60 votes and it still didn't pass abortion legislation as restrictive as the house.  And the public option that the house passed wasn't funded and was severely restricted on who could use it.

On #2 definitely.  Even if it hadn't actually been accepted I think it would have made democrats gain maybe 5% in the 50-65 age demographics.


Oh Please (4.00 / 1)
1. We should have been throwing everything at getting health care done through reconciliation from the start.  If the only reason we lost is because a few Senators lied, then we should have been pushing just as hard for reconciliation as anything else in the fight. If there are bad-faith actors in the caucus, then the goal should have been to remove their influence over the process altogether.  That would have meant  conducting a whip count to reach 51 senators in favor of using reconciliation.  We could have started it as soon as the budget passed with reconciliation on April 29th.

Let's just get one thing out of the way. The same people exhorting us now to get behind the bill and support it are the same people who found the demands for reconciliation impractical. The fact that they're coming around now saying, "Geez, we should have demanded reconciliation!", betrays a incredible lack of depth on their part.

Maybe you should read the entire post (4.00 / 1)
Before you go accusing people of a lack of depth, maybe you should bother reading the entire post.

You might notice that the point which you are so crazy smart to make, and which I am so depthless to miss, was actually in the friggin' post:

We may never have found 51 votes for reconciliation

Yeah, I think it would have been a slam dunk.

[ Parent ]
Apologies (4.00 / 1)
Sorry about that. My post was rude. I shouldn't have submitted it.  

[ Parent ]
Democrats Lied to You? (4.00 / 3)
You should man up and admit that you (and the Progressives) had no leverage over them.

Like they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Ah, "man up" (4.00 / 3)
I'm glad we have gotten to the point where attacks on masculinity have entered the discussion. Delightful.

Or you could bother to read the post I made just before this one. Hopefully, it will demonstrate my manliness to you.

[ Parent ]
Also, a lot of good faith from Travis Disaster (0.00 / 0)
Nice four from Travis Disaster, there. He had four comments in a thread earlier today where I said precisely that progressive have no leverage over Obama. And then he recommends a comment saying I should "man up" and admit that I and Progressive have no leverage over Obama.

Really, really good faith participation there.

[ Parent ]
maybe I was agreeing with his underlying premise (0.00 / 0)
as opposed to his framing

we only have '4's and '0's here

but if you want to have a big dumb argument, I'm more then game

hey remember when you told us all how awesome sacrificing the public option for that shitty Medicare expansion was, because SURELY that would placate the 2 centrist assholes holding this thing hostage

if you want to jump up people's dicks for trolling you that's fine, but don't get in their shit for comment ratings- that's petty Corrente shit

[ Parent ]
From where I sit (0.00 / 0)
It sure seems like your are not here to participate in good faith, but to start fights with people you don't like.

[ Parent ]
define for me "participate in good faith" (0.00 / 0)
you'll note that when I "start fights" (i.e. have opinions with which others differ) I'm loathe to make personal attacks or use invective

and I certainly don't call people out on how they rate comments

I read the posts and find many of them informative (mainly those written by David Sirota and Paul Rosenberg)...if I disagree I'll say so in the comments, and usually I'll try to use my limited resources (I'm not a big shot insider) to back up my words

you'll note I didn't post anything in the comments for this (brief) entry until I was called out by you for daring to uprate a slightly contentious comment (which I even tacitly agreed was phrased in a hostile way)

beyond the 'participation' I laid out I don't see what else I'm supposed to be doing here- I've made some (admittedly, shallow) diary entries that drew little interest, I think I added like 2 people from here on twitter- what more am I, a 30 year old paper pusher with no formal education and a blatently unamerican political outlook, supposed to be doing, here?    

[ Parent ]
Gee, I don't know (0.00 / 0)
I'll leave it to you to figure out what specific actions do and do not constitute participating in good faith, but recommending comments that attack the owner of the site on a premise you knew to be false with gay-baiting language isn't it.

I'm sorry I couldn't figure out a way to make the campaign work. But the fact is that no one did. Talking about jumping on people's dicks and the need to man up ain't gonna change that.

And no one has any formal education in politics.

[ Parent ]
for clarification purposes (0.00 / 0)
the phrase "jump up my dick" doesn't refer to an act of love between two men, it generally means to "get on one's case" in a overly aggressive manner

also, thanks for the positive feedback- I ask you a question "in good faith" and you basically tell me to go to hell because I uprated a blog comment that hurt your feelings

and my reference to lack of formal education wasn't simply tied to politics

still interested to hear (from anyone) what more commenters are expected to do on this site other than post comments

[ Parent ]
Let's not start analyzising comment ratings here. (4.00 / 1)
There are lots of reasons why people uprate comments, and endosrsement of the opinion voiced is only one of them. Let's refrain from taking a 4 rating as a sign of approval, pls!
This will unavoidably lead to misunderstandings and flame war. Absolutely not helpful.

[ Parent ]
but (0.00 / 0)
aren't significant portions of the bill simply not doable via reconciliation?

As far as #2 goes, yes, for the life of me I'll never understand why it wasn't Medicare For All from the start.  It's always been such an obvious, clear, well-framed place to negotiate from.

Yes, some are (0.00 / 0)
You can't do everything through reconciliation.  There is an ongoing debate about whether a public option or Medicare expansion could be done that way.

[ Parent ]
Not sure Medicare-for-all is such an easy sell (4.00 / 1)
The people with Medicare can be demagogued into fearing that Medicare will be "diluted."  We heard about some of that during the tea-bagging.  There is a strong element of "screw you, I've got mine" among many of our senior citizen class.

I do think it a better route than the public option.  It's an existing bureaucracy, one that gets the job done.

Just don't expect an easy sell.  

Agree, to a Point (4.00 / 2)
I'm self-employed, middle-aged, married with two kids. Our health care premiums are outrageous. At one point, to extend coverage for three months while we switched insurers, our provider told us we had to pay a years worth of premiums ($12-14,000) plus our $4,000 deductible before they would pay a dime for those three months. Fortunately we had to move to a state that has excellent S-CHIP for our kids. But our premiums are double what we would pay in Europe for worse care. And they're going up every 9 months.

Extending Medicare to cover people like me (millions, if I understand correctly) would make great sense, relieve private insurance companies of people they mostly don't want (although we're healthy), and be a good way to extend insurance to people who will miss out. I'm sure limiting the Medicare extension could be done to individuals above a certain age (e.g. 30 or 40) who are unemployed, self-employed, or run a business with 5 people or less.

There are ways to extend Medicare that do not threaten the program. Indeed, adding people to Medicare is one way to insure its future viability, both economically and in terms of people who will fight to continue it.

[ Parent ]
I wonder if we'd have gotten a better bill... (4.00 / 4)
If we had only 57 or 58 Dems.  Probably not, but if Dems didn't have a 60th vote to court, they'd have no choice but to either let HCR die or use reconciliation.

Its the BATNA, stupid (4.00 / 1)
In any negotiation, a party should always understand their BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement.

The primary difference between the "kill it" and "pass it" camps is the perception of what the alternative to passing this bill is.

I never bought the "HCR will be lost for 20 years" argument.

Well, let me lay out one alternative scenario (4.00 / 1)
No bill passes.

While Democrats could possibly make hay blaming it on the Republicans, one sees little sign of that being effective.  Republicans campaign on how they saved us from socialism or worse.  They capture both houses of Congress.  Obama is paralyzed, a lame duck.  A bunch of TeaParty Ayn Randians get in.  GOP takes power in 2012.  You might say they have no solutions either, they'll just get voted out soon.  Except they're smarter than that by now, maybe they decide to clamp down and change the rules.  Maybe they can make this internet thing y'all got goin go away.  Who'll stop them?  and then you might be looking at at least 20 years of darkness.

Whereas now you've got Dems with at least a fighting chance of pulling it out and a still energized left not letting them rest on their laurels.  The game is still in play.  I'm willing to take that.  It's the lesser evil.

sTiVo's rule: Just because YOU "wouldn't put it past 'em" doesn't prove that THEY did it.

[ Parent ]
Or... (0.00 / 0)
We have a repeat of 94 and then Obama is re-elected in 2012, beating a very weak GOP bench and we are at a stale mate.

[ Parent ]
Actaully, I think you are right (4.00 / 1)
And I think that goes for progressives in Congress, too. They are not acting in bad faith, one way or the other, they are just making a different calculation.

What you write is something I think most people intuitively have a sense of when entering any fight like this.  

[ Parent ]
I made this comment in another venue on June 19th (4.00 / 3)
Soooo typical...there is no need to compromise....there are 50 votes but the longer this little minuet goes on about trying to get a bipartisan solution to health care, the worse the outcome will be.  Instead of building support for the public option in Congress it;s helping to wear away at the support, giving the insurance companies and their allies time to undermine the plan.
As I wrote two days ago....the summer strategy of working on compromise is a tactical mistake.  they are hoping for Obama's popularity to lessen and for his commitment to the public option to be diverted.

50 votes now...we have them now, who the hell knows if we'll have them later.

Reconciliation now not later.

"Incrementalism isn't a different path to the same place, it could be a different path to a different place"

It's getting to be a pattern (4.00 / 2)
When Clinton and Gore were trying to get Boren to sign onto the BTU tax in 1993, nothing they could offer him would move him.  What he needed was bipartisanship.  It was his own pet religion.  I don't think they could believe what they were hearing.

Now we have Boren as our president.

[ Parent ]
I think #2 is a remedy lacking a problem (4.00 / 2)
We should have pushed to expand Medicare availability, rather than create a new public option.  As popular as the public option was in polls, Medicare is even more popular.  It is also simpler to explain, and does more to build toward universal coverage through Medicare in the future.

Public opinion was never a obstacle to the public option, as it had wide support, which only got better when it was fully explained. The WH could have mobilized people on the issue, but they chose not to - public opinion without mobilization has no impact. The public option wasn't that hard to explain, but the WH and Democrats in Congress never spent much time trying.

Those same officials could have just as easily failed to explain a Medicare expansion, it could have just as easily been demagogued by Republicans as both a threat to Medicare and a government take over of health care, conservative Democrats could have just as easily opposed it as a road towards single payer and as increasing the deficit, and there is no reason to think the Dems would have mobilized people for a different idea.

I don't know if progressives could have changed the behavior of Democrats in Congress or the White House earlier in the process (I sure wish we could run the clock back and find out), but the barriers were there, not among the public.  

Politics is the art of the possible, but that means you have to think about changing what is possible, not that you have to accept it in perpetuity.

Just want to add here - (4.00 / 2)
as someone who was active in a local DFA group - that after having spent two years running up to the '08 election watching local progressives turn first to various presidential campaigns, and then finally to the Obama campaign, I let the DFA group go, thinking, "Hey, great. OFA will be what DFA would have been had Dean won the election and had a whole lot more money."

I don't know if I could have done anything differently - probably this DFA group was doomed anyway - but OFA has got to be the biggest disappointment in all of this. A huge list of folks, many of them with months of had-won experience in organizing and electoral politics, and all year all they've been officially doing is pushing for the passage of any old health care reform bill.

That this group was never used to actually deliver on Obama's campaign promise for a PO is one of the biggest scandals here. Individual chapters included a PO in their call scripts and e-mails, but the group that had the best shot at "making" Obama and Congress do anything for the most part sat on the sidelines cheerleading.

[ Parent ]
This is, me thinks, 20-20 hindsight (4.00 / 2)
I don't mean to suggest that the experience isn't worth analyzing and learning from.  But, I suspect your two points leaves out a couple of important elements; ie, a unification of effort and how the events unfolded over time.

We don't have an umbrella for this nascent movement as you suggested in your previous diary, Chris.  That's really the take-away I got from it.  It's not like we need a centralized effort with one central organizer.  We could do a better job, however, with a loosely coupled system - or, matrix, if you will - where there was a coordination of effort so that a better focus could be exerted at specific pressure points.  Where are the opportunities for comparative advantage and will we have to struggle through some turf and territory issues to capitalize on it?  Open Left and Firedog Lake accomplished some of this with one whipping the Senate, and the other the House.  But, there are other opportunities, too.  For example, perhaps, some of the state blogs could have assumed some responsibility for an additional or supportive pressure on some "receptive" Representatives, and Senators.  My inbox was inundated with petitions to sign, in some cases, from organizations I wasn't even aware of.  I have no idea how they found me.  Ditto with requests to call various Congressional offices and report results.  A lot of that was duplication on steroids, and I think diffused the effort.  At the very least, it was confusing to me, and made me wonder if I shouldn't be keeping a scorecard to know when I'd already signed what petition, or for what entity I'd already called my Senators.  

The other element has to do with being able to foretell the future.  I'm not sure that we had much choice but to be reactive to events as they unfolded.  I surely didn't expect a Medicare buy-in to surface.  Nor, did I assume that individual Senators would lie.  Nor did I expect there to be the kind of disconnect between Obama's "white papers" and his campaign rhetoric.  I didn't expect that the summer's town squalls were merely kabuki theater, either.  Or, that Obama's OFA webinar would be utter bullshit.  There are milestones in this story that ought to be timelined; what did we know, and when did we know it.  It's possible that such a timeline would reveal where we'd been indecisive, or fell for a feint, but it's also possible that there were reversals that even the major actors couldn't have anticipated.  

We need to honor where we started in this game.  The kick-off didn't occur on the 50 yard line.  And, there is an excellent chance, given the empirical evidence, that no future game with Obama and the current Congress will begin on the 50 yard line either.  We saw it with the economic stimulus, and we've seen it on health care.  Anything going forward we want to stake out a beginning point now before we find ourselves with the kick off occurring in our own end zone?  And, then, we'd still need to whip ourselves into a position to defend it.

We also need to honor that some Democrats are merely aligned with a team.  Their political interests evaporate with the party's stated position.  Some can even be rabid team supporters.  Partisans to their core.  The DLC is okay by me!  They seem able to armchair quarterback some games.  They don't like criticism of the coach or the manager, although they're able to express some regret for the performance of individual players.  But, they aren't "citizens."  How we'd go about effecting a transformation of some of these folks I see online, I haven't a clue.  Frankly, I think staking out a policy position and defending it against all comers scares the shit out of some of them.

If I think about those folks who aren't connected to political blogs - or, maybe even aren't connected to blogs at all.  They're time constrained.  They've heard it's the Wild West out here.  The traditional media doesn't help the image.  It's hard to know where to get them started.  Where they aren't going to feel immediately overwhelmed.  And, then there's the traditional media itself.  Absolutely little help coming from that corner.  The NYT has broken some stories related to HRC (like the deal with the pharmaceutical companies, IIRC).  But, media as a whole has demonstrated that they're no ally.  What outlets should we be developing?  What should they look like?

What worries me is how much harder it will be in the future to disentangle ourselves from the corporate chains so many seem to reluctantly agree to let bind us now.  

Expanding existing public programs vs. creating new ones (4.00 / 1)
Still, as we look to the future, I hope any path progressives follow on health care focuses on reconciliation and expanding existing public options, rather than creating new ones.

Just a minor quibble, but any hard-and-fast rule that expanding existing public programs is always preferable to creating new ones is bound to be broken someday by some exceptional case, foreseeable or otherwise.

That said, it is probably true in most cases, and certainly so for this one.

Another possibility... (0.00 / 0)
Push Medicare expansion and gripe about a PO and then work it in as the compromise or price regulation.   I always thought we should have pushed Single payer from the start and then when it was politically unattainable (and we all know it would never pass), then "compromise" to the PO and Medicare.    

Why is this fight over, by the way? (4.00 / 1)
The House passed a PO; it could still be fought for in committee. I wouldn't expect it to win, but if it did it's not totally obvious to me that the Senate wouldn't pass that bill.

But besides, it's a way to stay on offense and hopefully get a few more concessions on other issues, as seemed to happen the last few days in the Senate.

To paraphrase Annie Lennox and The Tourists: it didn't have to be this way (0.00 / 0)
June 17, 2009:

Chris, with all due respect, you have the wrong frame. The powers that be want you to be begging for a public option, any public option (or for those who need a little caffeine in their weak-tea, a so-called "strong public option").

Will you be doing a post-mortem on...?

1. How you, Jane Hamsher, and others got drawn into the "public option" camp, and how to keep yourselves from helping propagate such questionable policy choices in the future?

2. How "public option" became the One True Agenda for health-care reform throughout the cohort of top bloggers, big activist groups, and left-leaning media figures? How did Hacker's paper (and the incredibly shrinking versions of its proposals) / HCAN's agenda become the only game in town?

3. Why you all turned a deaf ear to Obama and Congress's failure to live up to their promises and obligations to conduct an open and transparent process that considers all options?  In retrospect does that seem to have been a good idea?

4. Why you all assiduously avoided giving oxygen to stories about single-payer activism -- even doctors, nurses, and ordinary citizens getting arrested to promote substantive health-care reform (which surely would have moved the Overton Window in a beneficial direction)? And why you refused to dignify those who questioned the "public option" agenda? In retrospect does that seem to have been a good idea?

One of my regrets is that you, Chris, (4.00 / 1)
bailed out on the progressive movement when the going got really tough.

Bailing out was bad enough (0.00 / 0)
But then undermining it with the same type of twisted framing that the pundits on faux use.

I suppose that is what happens when people find they are "experts" in the public's eyes.  In the end, the expectation is that we just become another form of "dittohead".

Under the false flag of "analysis" and "reporting", coverage here by some degenerates to a series of attacks on anyone that does not buy into the party line and group think - facts be damned.

[ Parent ]
re: Expanded Medicare access (0.00 / 0)
We should have pushed to expand Medicare availability, rather than create a new public option

I was on this boat from the beginning, fwiw, and would tell anyone who would listen...but I pretty much felt like I was one person calling in the wilderness. So its our process and we learn going forward - that it is better to improve on something in place than create something new. This all said...

Is there any reason why the House couldn't now trade the Public Option for a Medicare Opt-in, as they are about to go into conference? Is it too late in the game to ask that the Progressives in the House make that change? And if it is possible (which it is), how do we do this? Being 57, I would be thrilled to have Medicare access (or a Tricare like access), and more than willing to pay increased taxes for it - and it could be phased in with lowered ages over (a short) time. I don't think Im alone in this either.

But again...I am one person...which is why I have come to OpenLeft and other blogs - safety and influence in numbers! So what influence do we have right now? Jon Walker at FDL seems to have does he get that?

expanded Medicare access (Conyers?) (0.00 / 0)
From Conyers quote:

"I supported the House bill because I believe that it is immoral to continue to allow the private health insurance industry to operate without any real checks on its ability to charge unaffordable premiums and deny needed care.  That is why I believe competition, as provided through a national Medicare-like public health insurance option and the repeal of the industry's antitrust exemption, is a necessary component of true reform.

Is he leaving room for a Medicate opt-in compromise?

[ Parent ]
Just another version of (0.00 / 0)
"hold them accountable, but we have to give them our money and vote for them anyhow" which is an oxymoron.

Defeated by standing deal between Obama and insurers, pharmas (4.00 / 1)
The bill that got passed was the one worked out months ago by Obama and the insurers/pharmas. The public option never had a chance. Dead from the beginning. Obama had been warned by Clinton and others not to buck the insurers.

Advocating the expansion of Medicare from the beginning would have made it more difficult to kill this idea. Especially if expanding Medicare were tied to "letting people retire earlier and making more jobs available" (jobs are now seen as far more limited than in the past) and "extending coverage to laid-off middle aged people who may never get hired again with health care benefits." But Obama and Emanuel would still have killed the idea. Obama would have kept faith with the insurers/pharmas.

Spot on (0.00 / 0)
the apologists here seem more interested in preserving their status and the status quo than the change that was the centerstone of the 2009 election.

Guess, for some, seeing themselves as "opinion leaders" and pundits is more important than having any integrity on issues.

This won't work in the long run, however, because in this case the folks that actually contributed the money, did the work on the ground, and showed up to vote are not going to repeat those historic efforts for the benefit of political insiders, pundits, dems, and team obama/rahm.

We got a big ZILCH!

[ Parent ]

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