Monday, August 24, 2009

Baby and Bathwater

This from
From progressives' point of view, they have been waiting many, many years for this moment -- for an ostensibly fairly liberal Democratic president, an ostensibly filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, an ostensibly lock-solid majority in the House, and a discredited opposition party. For a variety of reasons, the situation isn't as good for progressives as it appears on paper and never was. But that doesn't mean that expectations aren't very high. And yet they've seen little progress on climate change, on gay rights, on torture policy, on regulating the banks -- and now they're running into a stiff headwind on health care. It's 1994 all over again. To the progressive mind, it seems to be -- pardon my French -- the same old bullshit re-asserting itself. The moment is on the verge of being lost.
Silver's question, couched in (another) poker metaphor, is this: will progressives will go all-out batshit and absolutely insist on a public option that doesn't have a terribly strong chance of passing? I think that his analysis, which breaks up possibilities into discrete options, misses some of the gray areas that will doubtlessly be hammered out as a final bill is offered to the Senate: first, that there is such a thing as a strong and weak public option, just as there is such a thing as strong and weak reform (I'm speaking here from what he would call the 'progressive' point of view, and what I would call the 'pro-reform' point of view), and second, that these are all on the same spectrum. Enter the spectrum:

This is a simplification, of course, but it's a different one than Silver's -- I can't control Congress, not exactly, but I feel like my support for the public option, even if we end up with no strong public option, pushes the conversation to the right (on the chart, that is). I'll take an end to the way that health insurance companies profit from our fractured state-based insurance system, for example, and I'll support any politician brave enough to enact it -- even though I want more.

That's maybe the difference between now and 1994 -- because we have so many options on the table, there is much greater space for moderates of all kinds, and a much larger chance of getting some reform, even if it's not ideal reform, passed by the fall.

The only problem, really, is the fake reformers like Lieberman -- Democrats and Republicans (or in his case, neither) who accept large amounts of insurance company money and then it's all aww, shucks, do we really have the cash for this sort of thing? Ooo, it seems so complicated -- let's wait until it's impossible to pass reform, and then pass some reform.

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