On the Progressive Cave

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 12:43

There are a couple of quick responses I have to Glenn Greenwald article Has Rahm's assumption about progressives been vindicated?  In the article Glenn argues that Rahm Emanuel's assumption--that progressives would cave and come to support the final bill without any significant concessions--was vindicated.  This is a premise I objected to yesterday, when it was first floated by Ben Smith at Politico.

More in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: On the Progressive Cave
1. No, its not a different point
I objected to Ben Smith's assertion that Emanuel was vindicated by pointing to a Politico piece that claimed Emanuel was arguing for a called back bill smaller than a Senate bill.  Since progressives, labor and Nancy Pelosi were instead arguing for the Senate bill plus a sidecar fix, and since that is the process which was adopted instead of a scaled back bill, I said it was Emanuel who caved to progs, not the other way around.

Glenn responds by writing that this isn't the issue:

The "vindication" Smith sees has nothing to do with Emanuel's advocacy for a "scaled-back" bill, but is about a different point entirely:  namely, Emanuel's assumption that there was absolutely no reason to accommodate progressive objections to the health care bill because progressives (despite their threats) would automatically fall into line and support whatever the White House wanted, even if their demands were ignored.  Is there really any doubt that Emanuel was right about this point?

That is not a different point--it is exactly the same point.  If progressives were objecting to a scaled back bill, and a scaled back bill didn't happen because of their objections, then progressive demands were accommodated, not ignored.   In a post-Massachusetts context,. Progressives got the demand they were making.

2. Even the argument that Emanuel thought progressives would cave is "anonymous royal court intrigue" reports
Glen argues that you can't really prove Emanuel was advocating for a scaled back bill:

Assuming that Emanuel really advocated for a scaled-back version (that's from anonymous royal court intrigue reports, so who knows?), this objection (as Smith acknowledges) is true as far as it goes

It is true that the claim that Emanuel was arguing for a scaled back bill is based on "anonymous royal court intrigue reports."  Then again, so it the claim that Emanuel assumed progressives would cave. Where is that proof?  And why should we believe some anonymous royal court intrigue reports and not others?

3.  Progressives cut a deal on the July 31st letter way back in September
Quite a few people keep pointing to the July 31st letter where 60 Democrats vowed to oppose any bill with a public option.  Relevant passages from that letter:

Any bill that does not provide, at a minimum, for a public option with reimbursement rates based on Medicare rates - not negotiated rates - is unacceptable.(...)

We simply cannot vote for such a proposal.

It certainly doesn't look good to go back on a threat like that.  However, those Democrats already folded on that letter when all but two of them voted for the House bill in November.  They weren't threatening to vote against a bill without any public option--they were threatening to vote against a bill without a public option based on Medicare rates.  That sort of public option wasn't in the House bill that passed in November.

The bloc caved over four months ago, not now.  Only considering House Progressive support for the current legislation to be going back on their word doesn't make any sense.  If you were holding them to the words of the July 31st letter, you should have been demanding your money back from those Representatives as far back as November 7th.   If you were holding them to the July 31st letter, and considering swerving from it a betrayal, you probably confused the matter a bit by openly considering raising money for some of them since that time.

In fact, the bloc actually caved well before November 7th.  In mid-September, in response to Progressive threats to kill the bill, Speaker Pelosi gave them the green light to prove that a public option tied to Medicare rates:

I have done some checking on whether Representative Grijalva's claim in The Hill this morning that 46 members will vote against a bill without a public option represents the final count from the Progressive Caucus's whip count from three weeks ago.

It turns out that they never finished that whip count, and 46 was simply the number they were at when they dropped the effort. At the time they stopped, they were actually running above the 60 members who signed the letter opposing health care reform without a public option back in August. At least two other members had signed on.

The effort was dropped, however, in order to begin a new whip count of the entire Democratic Caucus on support for a public option with Medicare +5% rates (aka, the "robust" public option the Progressive Block had been demanding). This new whip count was begun at the request of Speaker Pelosi, who had challenged the Progressive Caucus to demonstrate sufficient support to pass such a public option.

Their threat led to this whip count, which ended up not finding the votes. And, once this whip count was started, the threat to vote against a bill without a public option was never reiterated.

The bloc folded in mid-September in return for the opportunity to whip the entire caucus, with the approval of the leadership, on the Medicare public option.  You can argue that was a bad deal to make, but the deal was cut six months ago, and was made public in October.


Now, let me be clear.  I am not going to try and whip progressives who are opposed to this bill into line.  I also agree that House Progressives gave up a lot more than they got during the course of this process.  Also, many people who feel let down by the Democrats who signed the July 31st letter have a good case.

All I am saying is:

  1. Progressives did get some concessions in return.  They were not entirely shut out.

  2. There is a good case to be made that, after Massachusetts, they made Rahm fall into line, not the other way around

  3. Stop waving around the July 31st letter, as though nothing happened between now and then, or as though what is happening now is the first time the promise in that letter wasn't broken.
And that's it.

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Two points (4.00 / 10)
I addressed much of what you said already, so I just want to note:

(1) Rahm's comments that he would not attend to the Left's demands were made on the record, not via anonymous reports:


(2) I didn't mention the July 31 letter.  Many progressive House caucus members were threatening to vote against the bill without any public option at all, including Anthony Weiner in September ( http://seminal.firedoglake.com... ) and, obviously, Kucinich.

Point 1 (0.00 / 0)
"There are no liberals left to get" in the Senate, Emanuel said...(emphasis added)

Like everything else in this argument, time, place, policy issues, political circumstances etc. matter. The cite above is pretty time and circumstance specific, where there was myopic focus on getting Senate passage. This is hardly a blanket 'left can suck on this' statement.

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

[ Parent ]
Even if Rahm didn't put it on the record (4.00 / 1)
is there really any question that the WH and Blue Dogs don't take the veal pen Progressive Caucus or liberal activists seriously at all?  

Can anyone honestly call the contempt of liberals mere "royal court intrigue"?

[ Parent ]
Response (0.00 / 0)
(1) When Rahm made those comments, on December 18th, the only liberal vote left to get was Bernie Sanders.  And Sanders got concessions.

(2) I wasn't just referring to you on that point. Probably could have made that clearer.

[ Parent ]
Glenn's Got A Point--But It's Not The Only Point (4.00 / 8)
Progressives certainly didn't get what they wanted out of this process, and Glenn is correct in the broad sweep of things.  But the broad sweep is not necessarily the trend.

As you point out quite clearly, Chris, the panicked retreat after the MA Senate loss did not materialize, largely due to progressive push-back.  And this was a real turning point that built on months and months of progressive stiffening that never seemed to quite be enough, but that kept growing stronger, even though that growing strength was largely below-the-radar.

And it's a turning point that could be huge in the long sweep of history, particularly in terms of how it may affect the mid-term elections--and how, in turn we can continue building beyond that.

What Glenn is pointing to is something we need to keep constantly in mind--as a guidepost to where we should be going.  We do need to win victories that are clear and unambiguous, and that do not require a Chris Bowers to spell them out.  We need victories that even knuckleheads like Chris Matthews can understand.  So we do have an important ways to go.

But we've crossed the point where Glenn's pointing to the only significant guidepost.  There are now other, more immediate guideposts about the interim steps we need to take to get further.  And we need to get a lot clearer about what those guideposts are in order to more effectively move forward.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

That and (0.00 / 0)
the larger point that whatever tactical vindication Rahm may be credited with came at the expense of a huge erosion in the strategic sense. Even in a purely political sense how can it be a victory when the best that can be said of it most people wont even notice it.

[ Parent ]
'The panicked retreat' = Abandon the uninsured (0.00 / 0)
Let's be clear -- the 'panicked retreat' suggested by Rahm after MA would have started first and foremost with scaling back how many uninsured will get subsidized coverage. That's where the big money is and clearly any break-it-up, scale-it-down plan would focus significantly on reducing the cost of the bill. Medicaid expansion would've been the first thing to go.

This just demonstrates that time, policy and political circumstances matter when considering tactics and what is a 'victory.' Who could've imagined that supporting the Senate bill(!) with some improvements would be a progressive position, but faced with the Rahm alternative, it is.

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

[ Parent ]
If we had pushed for Medicare-for-all (4.00 / 7)
instead of a stupid "public option" (like cramdown, we can't message for shit), we'd be just as disappointed, but at least the Overton Window would have been moved.

Arguably, blue dogs just want their pound of flesh. Centrists make a big deal about "splitting the difference" - we need to push as far as we can to the left - Rahm will water down whatever we come up with anyway.

Oh, I Agree 100% (4.00 / 2)
I'm no great fan of what's happening in DC.  Not at all.

I'm just saying that we're making progress, however belatedly.  And given how ugly everything's gotten, it's very important that we keep our heads about what progress is being made, and thus how best to build on it.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Perhaps (4.00 / 1)
We'll always get something to the right of what we want, that is just how negotiations work.  The problem with pushing for Medicare For All in this context is it is completely different than the health care bill, it isn't something that can be added and removed.  That makes it something that can't be negotiated very well.

Personally, while I loved the idea of the public option, I didn't consider it to be the most important thing.  Therefore, everything seemed to work according to plan.  We didn't get what we asked for, but the fight prevented us to lose other battles, battles that hardly even came up.  Adding 15 million people to Medicare, for example.

[ Parent ]
Wow - I agree with every comment in this thread, so far... (4.00 / 3)
as well as with much of the substance of Chris' post above.

And that is why I love Open Left -- so many thoughtful, substantive responses from all quarters!

Chris, I love ya, but... (4.00 / 6)
...you're not seeing the forest for the trees you're planting as quickly as you can.

Your arguments come down to "it's not really what it looks like because of "x detail" and "y nuance" and "z rhetorical loophole."

This is politics. None of that matters a whit to Greenwald's point, either now, or going forward. In politics, perception is reality, and nobody but defensive progressives are going to care about these "buts" you've laid out. Try to explain them to anyone you want to persuade and they'll start snoozing.

The perception that progressives can be taken for granted continues, and is reinforced by the HCR saga. Therefore it is reality.

I think if you step back and look that at the whole picture, you'll be hard pressed to argue that, in the next big policy fight, progressives will be even less of a factor after all this.

All that matters is that we need to figure out what to do about that, and denial sets that goal back.


The Perception That Perception Is Reality Is The Reality That Perception Tries To Create (4.00 / 2)
And for those closer to the ground, it's easier to change reality first, and perceptions second.

Better to change both at once, of course.  But you do what you can today in order to make more possible tomorrow.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Heh. (4.00 / 3)
Okay, that was funny.

But to your point, you cant separate the two (reality and the perception of reality) in politics the way you are attempting to. They're like time & space. You engage with one, you engage with the other. It's a law of nature that they they cannot be dealt with consecutively or distinctly, they are always dealt with simultaneously as a function of each.


[ Parent ]
Maybe So (0.00 / 0)
But the partial derivatives in each direction can differ tremendously, and that's really what matters most here, IMHO.

Things have been so deeply messed up for so long that it's taken much longer than it should have to start getting traction in moving anything at all.  So when we get traction first in moving things without getting credit for it, that's precisely what's to be expected.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I dunno about that (0.00 / 0)
That's a tough one. It makes logical sense, but at the same time it seems Republicans are awfully good at gaining victories by easily pushing perceptions that have very little to do with reality.  

[ Parent ]
Who the fuck cares if Rahm was vindicated to not? (4.00 / 15)
I'm sick of all the palace intrigue regarding the evilness-brilliance of Rahm.

The important thing is the all progressives in Congress are backing this bill despite saying they wouldn't, promising they wouldn't, and that 97 percent of liberals are supporting a bill that even it's most ardent supporters -- Ezra Klein, Jonathan Chait -- acknowledge resembles the GOP plan from the Clinton era.

What the hell is going on here?

Well, in one sense, same old same old: progressive Congress people with their spines of jello. As soon as  progressives in Congress made their threat, few people took it seriously because that simply isn't what progressives in Congress do. Progressives are the religious right of the Democratic party, and even that's being too generous.

In another sense, the ascendance of Obama has increased progressives' appetite for shit sandwiches. Escalation in Afghanistan, indefinite detention, state secrets, secret prisons, Wall Street-fondling: there's literally nothing that Obama could conceivably push that a critical mass of "progressives" wouldn't support simply because it's Obama pushing it. Compared to much of Obama's agenda, his corporate-friendly backroom-deal diluted health care reform is "liberal," so we have near unanimous support, never mind that if a Republican president had proposed it, most of us would be outraged, screaming about the government protection of corporate profits and government's forcing people to purchase a shitty product from a corporation.

The lack of principle is the issue here, the moral bankruptcy of progressives, not Rahm.

It Sucks, But (4.00 / 8)
It sucks a whole lot less if it signals a turning of the tide.

And frankly it's simply too early to tell if it does. (Forget the immediate results, for the moment.  We're talking first-, second-, third-derivative analysis here.)

I am all for a politics of principle.  But that's why I've spent the vast majority of my life as an issue activist.  If you're going to play the party politics game--which like it or not is always going to play a major role and suck up tons of energy--then principle is always negotiable.  What matters is the terms of negotiation.  And while the Congressional progressives sucked terribly on the terms they got, they did improve over time.  It's our job to press them hard to dramatically up the rate of improvement--and to do everything we can to make it more possible for them.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
This is not about the politics of principles. It is about the politics (4.00 / 9)
 of winning, which progressives not only don't know how to do, but seem incapable of even perceiving that they don't know how to do it. Indeed, when they are told that they don't know how to win or negotiate or any of those pesky little things that actual allow others to succeed in the real world, they make excuses. Take for example the need for the power of veto- it is absolutely crucial, and yet, when someone mentions the concept (that a veto power over what policies are enacted is absolutely crucial to the levers of power). I said yesterday, and I will repeat it now: Until progressives learn to become the party of no, they will never influence political outcomes.  

[ Parent ]
There is a lot that liberals generally don't understand about negotiation (4.00 / 3)
But, in brief, the biggest mistakes made during the process:

1.  Not starting negotiations aggressively.  Indeed, starting negotiations where you expect to end up (i.e. a robust public option), rather than where you want to be or where the other side is afraid you might go (i.e. single-payer).

2.  Negotiating against themselves.  If you make a concession, get one in return.  Do not follow a concession with a concession.

3. Making concessions early.  I'm not going to kill the progressive caucus for crossing their line in the sand.  I kill them because they did it literally months too early.  Now is the time to say: "Okay, okay, to reconcile with the Senate we will agree that the public option will not immediately be available to 100% of Americans."

4. Being unwilling to walk away from the table.

5. Focusing exclusively on what liberals risked by failing to negotiate an agreement and failing to understand what the other side risked.  Liberals focused almost exclusively on all the bad things that would happen to them if a deal fell through.  They failed to appreciate the bad things that would happen to the GOP (if they were forced to filibuster a bad bill), to Blue Dogs (the same), Obama (after promising to pass HCR and failing) and the insurance companies (who risked single-payer in the not-too-distant future if this much more favorable legislation did not pass)

6. Taking the other side's threats and statements at face value.

[ Parent ]
The two most important seems to be 5 and 6 (4.00 / 3)
Those two lead, I believe, to 1-4.

Both rely on liberal assumptions about the political environment, and, indeed, an internalized sense of weakness, and, they both assume that liberals can not win in a political fight.  The fact that liberals believe this makes it a self realizing prophesy.

I absolute agree with 5 because all to often liberals would make up what was at stake for the other side without testing their assumptions. This is to me the greatest sin. Not testing your assumption. By not doing so, you are strictly speaking engaging in nothing but a belief based assessment of the system. For a community that claims to be so much about reality based assessment to do this just underscores how powerful the mindset is. If you are not going to test the waters of your own assumptions, are you then going to overcome the assumptions set forth by others with whom you disagree?

And, of course, that naturally does lead into 6. By the time you assume that you are without power, when the other side comes along to agree with you, then of course, you are only then reinforcing what you have already decided to be gospel.  

[ Parent ]
I think that's right (4.00 / 5)
terms of negotiation.

To be clear, although I don't think bill will turn out to be a good for progressives, I'm hoping and guessing it won't be terrible for progressives either, and I try not to criticize progressives who support it (only those who claim it's the MOST PROGRESSIVE BILL SINCE...)

But quite apart from the substance of the bill, there's how we got here, progressives caving without winning meaningful concessions (I disagree with Chris on this),  and "even the extremely liberal" Dennis Kucinich not only backing the bill but now whipping for it without winning a single concession--why? Because he went on a plane ride with the Pres. None of this bodes well for progressives. In fact, it's kind of embarrassing.  

[ Parent ]
I Think What Matters Still Lies Ahead (4.00 / 2)
I don't like any of it much at all in the immediate time-frame.  And I don't buy the idea that just because you pass something crappy that means it will automatically be the pathway to something better in the future.  That's just stupid talk, which ignores the broader political context (i.e. state of hegemonic struggle) which makes further progress "logical" vs. an uphill fight, vs. totally out of the question.

What I do think is possible is that Obama has been forced to start fighting, and that the broader political dynamic has begun to get shaken up so that the progression from crappy bill to better legislation down the road may become much more likely--and much more motivating for building grassroots progressive pressure.

There is no guarantee of this, and anyone who pretends otherwise is flat wrong.  But there is at least a possibility of this, and I believe it's a significantly better possibility than otherwise seemed possible.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I hope you're right (0.00 / 0)
I realize you've been through more ups and downs than I have, and I understand that ambiguous, murky quarter-victories must precede big clear ones, but I have trouble viewing this health care battle as anything but more of the miserable same. We'll see.  

[ Parent ]
Can't the same be said about the bill not passing? (4.00 / 1)
Even the part about "progression from crappy bill to better legislation down the road".

It is possible that HCR failure could be spun as a need to move the bill more to the left, at least as far as that Stupak Bloc is concerned. It is possible that the progressive left will get more energized if they get a chance to push actual reform of healthcare, rather that reinvigorating the for profit health insurance corps.

As usual, the real determinant of what happens is measured by probabilities, however.

It is possible that I will get a chance to ride a magic pony to work tomorrow, but in all probability, it'll be the station wagon again.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
It's Theoretically Possible (0.00 / 0)
but historically and pragmatically not bloody likely.

In fact, if it were possible, IMHO, we'd already have avoiding the crappy situation we find ourselves in.

In addition to everything else, we need those disillusioned Dem voters to show up for the midterms in greater numbers than now looks likely.

"We've made a start, and with your help we can make it better" is a much more salable pitch than "Obama really screwed up, but give us another chance so we can get him ready for primetime.  This time for sure!"

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Failed HCR and Double Tanked Economy (4.00 / 2)
The only thing that may bring Obama/Rahm/DC Dems back towards the left is failure on all fronts, but even then, that is not the most likely possibility.  My guess would be that if all things bad happen, then Obama will hunker down and govern pretty much exactly like W.  For some reason, he has rejected going the populist Dem route.  

[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, you are probably correct (0.00 / 0)
Although I wouldn't suggest that Dems use the "Obama screwed up" approach. More along these lines: Despite the President and the congress reaching out to the Right in good faith, they were met with intransigence. As the near-misses with rep. like Kucinich and others an the left including the anti-Stupak Dems attest, moving the policy further to the right is ill-advised. So, vote for these more progressive Dems. Let's take just one last idea from our Republican friends and start over - from the beginning. The beginning to include the point where single payer plans were arbitrarily taken off the table.

Not that Obama screwed up, but that he needs our help. I think its harder to make this case if the bill passes. Winners don't need help.

Note: I am not suggesting that the preceding as a rationale for killing the bill. Rather as a potential post-defeat strategy and positioning. Meet defeat by doubling-down.

I'd like to think that espousing such a populist and progressive approach would be a winning argument in the 2010 elections, but I suspect there are a bevy of activists ready to tell me how wrong I am.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
But You Yourself Can See (0.00 / 0)
what a mouthful that is.

Not very rousing either.

If you've ever done door-to-door work targeting occasional, young or newly-registered Dem voters, then you definitely know what I'm talking about.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Give Everybody Medicare (4.00 / 3)
Shorter message for a redo is the Grayson approach:

Give Everybody Medicare Buy-in.

Followed by

Give Everybody Cheap Drugs

But despite massive public support, this would only get through Congress and the WH if the wheels were falling off, and if Obama's current HCR/economic team was discredited/debunked/fired.

[ Parent ]
Well, Rome Wasn't Burned In A Day n/t (4.00 / 3)

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Follow up (0.00 / 0)
How in the context in which progressives are not even willing to admit that they have a problem are you going to change the dynamics? If the problem is that they are unwilling to change, what can you possibly do about it without changing who is in Congress?

[ Parent ]
I Don't Think That Progressives Are Unwilling To Admit They Have A Problem (4.00 / 1)
Some are, perhaps.  But not progressives as a whole, and certainly not Dennis Kucinich, who very explicitly said that he was not withdrawing any of his criticism.  And please note that by doing so, he drew support from other progressives who supported the bill earlier than he did.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Listening and following through on what the criticism means is 2 different things (4.00 / 2)
It does no one any good to have them listen, and then, nevertheless, respond with the same sorts of capitulation as they previously did.

The thing is Paul-- I have been around blogs for a quite a while now. These criticisms are not new. The problem is that they nevertheless capitulate anyway even while knowing that everyone thinks of progressives as weak.

I think the issue is fundamentally a character issue with the DC progressives.

One can discuss strategy until one is blue in the face (I've had to learn this on a personal level), and it is only when you implement strategies that you start to realize that you must be disciplined enough and have enough courage to actually see the strategy through.

I simply do not see that amongst the progressives in DC. And, what's worse, I see the vast bulk of online people at least making excuses for the lack of character and discipline.  

[ Parent ]
I'm Not Depending On Character (0.00 / 0)
I think the issue is fundamentally a character issue with the DC progressives

In the long run, I'm much more with the situationalists and the institutionalists than I am with the dispositionalists.

Ergo: change the situtation, and other changes will follow.

Easier said than done, of course.  But not absolutely hopeless, which is what I'd be if I were only seeing things in terms of individual character.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
IMHO the entire purpose of the past year (4.00 / 2)
was simply to extract more and more concessions from liberals.

I believe that 12-18 months ago, the insurance industry would have accepted some form of fairly robust public option (or equivalent government-provided competition).  Did they want it?  Of course not.  But they would have accepted it to remove the spectre of single-payer and to get the benefits of the individual mandate.

Once liberals took single-payer off the table, the industry said "We won.  Everything else is icing on the cake."  They pushed and pushed and pushed for more concessions.  It was only when the liberal base fractured and Howard Dean threatened to oppose the bill that the demand for liberal concessions stopped.  That was when they decided to bank their winnings.

Negotiations are a euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.
-- George Schultz  

[ Parent ]
The industry went into this battle realizing that they could not (4.00 / 2)
avoid legislation completely. Indeed, they didn't want to completely avoid legislation given the permutations that could provide them with a larger number of new customers and higher premiums. The battle was always about what type of legislation. The largest miscalculation by progressives beyond not fighting the White House was misunderstanding that the insurance industry wanted this legislation.  

[ Parent ]
I agree completely with your assessment. (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
I just read GG's post and saw (4.00 / 2)
that he in fact makes the same point I was making, only he did it better, of course.

In other words, the bill which many progressives were swearing just a couple months ago they could not and would not support (the Senate bill) is materially similar to the bill they're now vigorously supporting (the Obama/reconciliation bill).  The differences are purely "cosmetic," as Silver says (it's even worse than that, since one of the few positive changes progressives could point to -- the Health Insurance Rate Authority, which would prevent large premium increases -- was just removed from the bill).  Thus, from a purely strategic perspective, Emanuel was absolutely right not to take progressives seriously because he knew they would do exactly what they did:  support the bill even if their demands were ignored.

I want to be clear here:   I'm not criticizing progressives who support this bill, nor am I criticizing those who insisted they would oppose it but changed their minds at the end.  Unlike many progressives, I was never among those who advocated for this bill's defeat because, as loathsome and even dangerous as I find the bill's corporatist framework to be (mandating that citizens buy the products of the private health insurance industry), I've found it very difficult (as I said all along) to oppose a bill that results in greater health care coverage for millions of currently uninsured people.  Whether progressives are doing the right thing in supporting this bill is debatable (there's a strong progressive case for the bill -- any bill that restricts industry abuses and vastly expands coverage is inherently progressive -- and a strong progressive case that it does more harm than good), but that's a completely separate question from the one raised by Smith.

What's not debatable is that this process highlighted -- and worsened -- the virtually complete powerlessness of the Left and progressives generally in Washington.  If you were in Washington negotiating a bill, would you take seriously the threats of progressive House members in the future that they will withhold support for a Party-endorsed bill if their demands for improvements are not met?  Of course not.  No rational person would.

Moreover, everyone who has ever been involved in negotiations knows that those who did what most progressive DC pundits did here from the start -- namely, announce:  we have certain things we'd like you to change in this bill, but we'll go along with this even if you give us nothing -- are making themselves completely irrelevant in the negotiating progress.  People who signal in advance that they will accept a deal even if all of their demands are rejected will always be completely impotent, for reasons too obvious to explain.  The loyal, Obama-revering pundits who acted as the bill's mindless cheerleaders from the start (this is the greatest achievement since FDR walked the Earth) were always going to be ignored; why would anyone listen to the demands of those doing nothing but waving pom-poms?...

Nobody likes to acknowledge their own powerlessness, but no good can come from shutting one's eyes and pretending it's not true.  It's a genuine problem that the threats and demands of progressives (for lack of a better term) aren't taken seriously at all, and will be taken even less seriously now.  Facing that problem is a prerequisite to finding a way to solve it.


[ Parent ]
Except That (4.00 / 1)
I think that point was already reached well before this.

And the first faltering steps are being taken to start reversing this, which is what Chris was writing about.

We're still heading in the wrong the direction so far as legislation is concerned. But the first derivative looks like it's changing in our favor, and while that's not the prize, it's the pathway to the prize... eventually.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
This is why where we are (4.00 / 1)

I've found it very difficult (as I said all along) to oppose a bill that results in greater health care coverage for millions of currently uninsured people

This was always the bottom line, and it meant in the end that Progressives were never going to exercise a veto.

[ Parent ]
Of course you object (4.00 / 1)
he called you a punk (as defined by Burroughs and various and sundry prison movies).  

You mean, I suppose, the homophobic sense of the term? n/t (0.00 / 0)

[ Parent ]
Vindicated (4.00 / 2)
Isn't the argument vindicated by the fact that--at the last minute--labor is middle class working people are getting royally screwed by a tax on health benefits that is further-reaching and will affect far more people over time than the one that had already been crammed down their throats.

And that this isn't being highlighted by progressive blogs as the betrayal it is?  That it's actually being celebrated in some allegedly progressive circles--i.e., oh good, now right wing Democrats can vote for the bill!  More deficit reduction!

Boiled down translation (0.00 / 0)
Progressives didn't cave as disastrously as before, therefore this outcome is something of a success.  Correct?

i.e. Our team didn't lose by 50 points like last time, it was only by 45; we must be improving.

Big Tent Democrat on the need for progressive introspection over (4.00 / 1)
the failure to negotiate:


The lack of ability to be honest with yourself is a problem.

not so much of a much (4.00 / 1)
Since progressives, labor and Nancy Pelosi were instead arguing for the Senate bill plus a sidecar fix, and since that is the process which was adopted instead of a scaled back bill, I said it was Emanuel who caved to progs, not the other way around.
(emphasis added)

that Pelosi's House ended up following Pelosi's preferred strategy is not surprising. that progressives were also backing the same strategy doesn't make them the force for victory. not that they didn't help. but imagine that Pelosi wanted the HCRLite bill. could progressives and labor have overcome her opposition? i very seriously doubt that.

i think the larger points of the post are pretty much on. and i would suggest that if the Progressive Caucus in the House wants to deal with perceptions of them as mush, financial regulation reform would be a good place to say No. it doesn't have the history or the emotional resonance, and there is (i think) a much stronger case that bad reform is worse than no reform at all. (it'd be nice if there were Senators who would follow the same line, i just can't really imagine it.)

not everything worth doing is profitable. not everything profitable is worth doing.

It's just another post hoc rationalization/ process argument (4.00 / 1)
I mean - what does it really matter if the progressives' preferred strategy was followed if the actual content of the legislation was neo-liberal/conservative/corporatist, etc?

[ Parent ]
If You Want A Model (4.00 / 1)
look back at the Progressive Era.  It was very much a mixed bag, and was easily overshadowed by the New Deal.  But there were very real battles that moved things from a purely corporatist to a more open-ended direction.  Given the dimensions of electoral change we're talking about, the realignment potential from the 2008 election was never in the same range as 1932.  Rather, it was always more likely to be more like 1896, which was a period of incredible thrashing about (there was plenty of that post-1932, too, we tend to forget).

So, even though I dearly, dearly wish we were in a period of much greater decisiveness, I think it's quite understandable why we are not, and we should not take out all of our frustration by attacking individual actors, however much it may feel right to do so.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
I believe it depends on what you mean by "potential" (0.00 / 0)
Obama has never been a real liberal.  And Congress is obviously dominated by corporatists.  So, I concede that what I suggest was never truly possible.

That aside, I believe that if we had a true liberal president and Congress and they took the money for bank and corporate bailouts, defense contracts, and health insurance subsidies, and poured it into education-loan forgiveness, stimulus spending with a heavy emphaisis on infrastructure and job creation, and Medicare for all, that the resulting economic boom for the middle class would be so massive that the resulting realignment would make post-1932 pale by comparison.

[ Parent ]
Well Sure (0.00 / 0)
But we don't have that.

So what do we do now?

If just yelling "Wake up you fucking idiots" would do the job, I'd be all for it, believe me.

"You know what they say -- those of us who fail history... doomed to repeat it in summer school." -- Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Season 6, Episode 3

[ Parent ]
Despite the logic of your approach (0.00 / 0)
I see value in someone continuing to yell and scream.

It a both/and thing, so I'm sure you see it too.

"It sounds wrong...
     ...but its right."

[ Parent ]
Just look at what was recieved (4.00 / 1)
Once again the progressives got kicked in the nards and caved at the end while Blue dogs drew a line and got "bags of cash".

Progressives need a better fight trainer.

Guys, it over it! (0.00 / 0)
How long you gonna spend polishing your balls after the tournament ends???

Saying that Progressives didn't cave is like saying, "I didn't have sexual relations with that woman!  Miss Lewinsky."  Well guys, we bent over and Stubby 9-Fingers put it to us.  

Paul makes the significant point.  Now the entire issue is framed by the question, "What do we do next."   Well,,, take a deep breath, polish your balls a little harder, then take a moment to reflect.  In addition he gave us three potential pathways by which can occur.  1) logical next step, 2) uphill battle,  3) completely fucking impossible so run around screaming and pulling your hair.  Ok, I changed the third option, but in all reality trying to proceed at the national level probably only has the third option for the foreseeable future.  Which leaves us with the most likely option of going back to the states and trying to figure out ways to get the necessary laws and exemptions to create state based systems.  When you think about it, this would really be easier than changing the national system.  First, most all regulation, provider and  insurance, is done at the state level.  Secondly, state legislator don't have the anonymity that federal politicians can hide behind.  Some states have already started moving toward state systems.

Unfortunately, unlike the conservatives, the liberal have in the past bet all their marbles on the federal government.  Well,,,,,,, that may have to change.  The federal government is broken.   Some people think permanently broken.  

Even though its an uphill battle, the lines are forming at the state capitol.  

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

Guys, get over it! (0.00 / 0)
Would have looked much better in the title of the previous comment.  Oh well,  so much for the importance of what I had to say!  :)

"Oh. My. God. .... We're doomed." -- Paul Krugman

[ Parent ]

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