Our Dysfunctional Left


Jon Cohn thinks Barack Obama should be working harder to broker a healthcare deal, but at the end of a long review of the current state of play he adds that nothing is likely to happen unless progressives start pushing for it too. Armando comments:

Progressives have been marginalized and insulted throughout the process. Many, if not most, do not care for the Senate health bill. And now one of the people who did the marginalizing and insulting (one of the big proponents of the bill killing excise tax), insists progressives have to fight for the Senate health bill? Amazing.

More importantly, it is not going to happen. Unless someone is offering up a public option (which is not on the table of course), forget about progressives whipping for the passage of the Senate health bill. The Senate health bill is Jon Gruber’s and Max Baucus’ and Barack Obama’s and the Villagers’ baby. It is on them. You can’t spend a year ridiculing, ignoring, and insulting progressives and then expect them to rally to YOUR cause.

This is both absolutely true1 and utterly pathetic at the same time. It’s true because….well, it’s true. Obama has always kept his distance from both the netroots and the broader lefty base, and the congressional leadership largely did the same during healthcare negotiations. And it’s not just that they ended up with a policy choice that progressives were unenthusiastic about. It’s that they never even pretended to take progressives seriously. This is a mistake that George Bush and Karl Rove never made. The conservative base frequently didn’t get what it wanted from them, but they always felt like they had a friend in the White House whose heart was in the right place. Progressive groups, conversely, have mostly felt like they got the back of the hand from the White House on healthcare. So it’s understandable that they’ve either given up or, in a few cases, actively turned against the whole process.

But this is also utterly pathetic because….well, it just is. So Max Baucus didn’t listen to us. Big deal. So we didn’t get invitations to White House tea parties. Who cares? It may be understandable that progressives feel dissed, but are we really all such delicate flowers that we’re going to give up on a cause we’ve spent a century on because the current bill isn’t quite what we’d like and Rahm Emanuel is mean to us? Jesus.

In 20 years this bill will be entirely forgotten except as the first step toward broad national healthcare. The excise tax, the public option, the subsidy levels, the exchange — all forgotten because they will have been steadily replaced by an entirely different infrastructure. It’s true that some of that infrastructure will be path dependent on the details of the current bill, but most will simply evolve as a result of technology and public demand. By 2030 arguments over the public option will seem as antiquated as rants against the tin trust.

But that’s 20 years from now, and we won’t get there unless we take the first step. So the White House needs to start listening seriously to progressive ideas and progressives need to suck it up and understand that they’re going to lose most of the battles. That’s just the nature of consensus politics. But speaking for me, that’s OK as long as we win the war. And the only way to do that is to pass the damn bill. So let’s pass it.

1Absolutely true in general, that is. To the best of my knowledge, though, Jon Cohn has done absolutely no “marginalizing and insulting” of progressives during the past year. I really don’t know why Armando insists on saying stuff like this.