Thoughts on the Passage of HCR
March 23, 2010

The Vice President sort of beat me to it.

The Long Game
March 20, 2010

Via Balloon Juice, I think Ronald Brownstein is really onto something when he says:

The fight has opened a second window into Obama. The key here is his 2008 campaign assertion that “Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America” more than Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton did. The health care struggle suggests that Obama views changing that trajectory as the ultimate measure of a presidency’s success. His aim is to establish a long-term political direction — one centered on a more activist government that shapes and polices the market to strengthen the foundation for sustainable, broadly shared growth. Everything else — the legislative tactics, even most individual policies — is negotiable. He wants to chart the course for the supertanker, not to steer it around each wave or decide which crates are loaded into its hull.

If this is what Obama believes, then I think he’s right about that. In fact, it’s been part of my argument for passing health care from the beginning: that a massive public good like this could also redefine for the better how the legislative branch views its job.

This is something that I don’t think progressive opponents of the bill get; all they see is an insufficient bill sitting in front of them right now. But besides being the art of the achievable, politics is also the art of the incremental and the art of precedent. You can’t create sweeping reform out of a vacuum. And while I’m all for starting with a high opening bid, openly refusing to work on something that could actually pass–and instead unsuccessfully pushing for a dream bill–is going to do more to set back progress than help it.

Of course at this point, with regards to health care, that argument is irrelevant. Tomorrow it will either pass or not pass (more likely the former). There aren’t a lot of other options on the table. If it doesn’t pass, of course, that will be a catastrophe; for the left, for the White House, for the Democrats, and, most importantly, for the uninsured. But if it does pass, then I think it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for all of its opponents on the left to grudgingly return to the fold.

What’s In It For the Left?
March 9, 2010

That’s the question one reader asked Steve Benen, and he treats it with a lot more gravity and respect than I think I would have been able to muster.

Here’s my thing: asking that question, and making it the criteria for whether or not to support the plan–or any legislation, for that matter–is completely insane.

Let’s ignore the fact that there are very real political advantages to be gained if progressives get behind this bill. The primary reason to support it is because 30 million people who currently lack health insurance will receive it. Even if there weren’t a built-in political advantage for the left, what would that matter? It’s good legislation, and it’s going to save lives. Anyone who thinks about this in terms of what side “wins” is missing the point. Even worse, they’re privileging political advantage over moral responsibility; which, funnily enough, was one of the things that we kept insisting made the other guys so bad during the Bush years.

From Benign Neglect to Actively Undermining HCR
January 29, 2010

“We can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold,” said President Obama during his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it health care parenthetical in Wednesday’s State of the Union address. Which is kind of funny, because putting it on hold is evidently precisely what his chief of staff intends to do.

Say what you will about Obama and Emanuel, but they’re not stupid. They know that just taking a rain check on the whole issue would be a death sentence. So Emanuel’s plan to just put it off until we’re done dealing with every single other major problem ever can only be interpreted as an attempt to kill the issue, or at least wash the White House’s hands of it.

Now, maybe there’s reason to hope, as Chait suggests, that Emanuel’s breaking with the president here. But I’m not sure that’s something we can count on, given Obama’s conspicuous absence from the whole process, to the point where even a couple of sentences in the SOTU to the effect of, “By the way, this thing is sorta important too,” were taken as a huge watershed moment in his support. Either way, I’ve yet to see any evidence that this is something he’s actually willing to fight on.

If HCR eventually passes, then the history books will no doubt say that this was one of Obama’s great domestic legislative achievements. But let’s get the record straight: as it stands right now, he’s done nothing to earn the credit. Unless he jumps on the wagon he was supposed to driving real goddamn quick, then even if it gets across the finish line, it will be someone else’s win. Right now, it seems to me our last best hope is Nancy Pelosi.

What the Hell is Howard Dean Thinking?
December 16, 2009

I like Howard Dean. I supported him during the 2004 presidential primary, and I don’t think he gets nearly enough credit (outside of netroots circles, anyway) for his role in herding the Democratic Party to a historic electoral victory in 2006.

But all of that being said, this is just nuts:

“This is essentially the collapse of health care reform in the United States Senate. Honestly the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.”

Never mind that this is a damn good bill. Never mind that reconciliation could only be used to pass a limited portion of the bill. And never mind that the health care reform Dean proposed in 2004 was significantly less ambitious than the legislation he’s calling insufficient now. None of that’s terribly salient, given that the odds of him getting his wish are roughly equivalent to the odds of Joe Lieberman getting visited by the eight ghosts of Hanukkah, having an abrupt change of heart, and crying for medicare expansion to be put back into the bill.

No, what really gets me about this is that Dean, a major voice in the grassroots progressive movement, seemingly wants to deprive them of a major victory.

When health care reform passes, the left should celebrate. We should be able to hold this up as a huge milestone, and the first step in a continual expansion of the new Great Society. But instead, Dean–and other organizers who oppose the bill–would have us distance ourselves from the most significant legislative coup we’ve had in a very long time, thereby substantially, and unnecessarily, weakening our position.

Of course, there’s a significant portion of the netroots–Dean’s base within his base, you could call them–that disagree with me. Dean’s telling them what they want to hear, and he knows that. I hope his motives, however misguided, for calling for the tanking of the Senate bill are purer than just a blatant pander to the Kos-and-MoveOn crowd. It would be a damn shame if one of the left’s foremost leaders was taking a page out of the far right’s book and taking a position he knows will help him advance within the movement to its detriment.

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