10 March 2010

Our Dumb Discourse

TNR's Jon Chait has a great piece about the depressingly myopic tone of the political discourse during this whole health care debate:

Across the political spectrum, myopia is the order of the day. A few recent items give expression to this myopia.

Begin with the left. Without a doubt, Obama's proposals would leave the health care system far short of what most progressives, myself included, would design in the absence of political constraints. But also without a doubt, it would lift the system far above the status quo that is the only near-term alternative. Here it is, the most dramatic improvement in social justice in at least four decades fighting for its life in the home stretch, and the left can barely be roused to fight for it. The somnolence is far from universal, but on the left there is at least as much passion against health care reform as for it. One of many considerations the vulnerable Democratic moderates who hold reform's fate in their hands must balance is, in return for the limitless rage of the right, will they get any credit from the left for backing this reform? At the moment when every voice counts, when every ounce of pressure could prove decisive, here is FireDogLake:

Lynn Woolsey says she’s a definite “yes” vote on the Senate health care bill. Even if it lacks a public option. Despite the fact that it’s the biggest blow to a woman’s right to choose in a generation, and may come at the price of a stand-alone vote that allows Blue Dogs and ConservaDems to join with Republicans and roll them back even further in order to get Bart Stupak’s support. ... It’s time for Lynn Woolsey to resign as the head of the Progressive Caucus.

Yes, that is what it is time for! One day, when progressives study this moment in history, they will evaluate all of us by this single standard: What did they do to stop Lynn Woolsey?

The right, meanwhile, has whipped itself into a spiraling rage of ideological fanaticism and grotesque partisanship. Republicans have convinced their base that a close replica of the 1993 Senate Republican health care plan and Mitt Romney's Massachusetts reform is socialism and the end of freedom in America, and as the base spins further out of control, it drags the party still further into scorched-Earth opposition. Thus the Republicans who saw the need for reform were whipsawed one by one by the base and the party leadership into abandoning all negotiations.

The latest Republican gambit, put forward by John McCain (who has become a pure stalking horse for the party leadership) is to demand that no change to Medicare be permitted through budget reconciliation. This means that the very difficult task of getting a majority of both Houses to approve a Medicare cut would become the nearly-impossible task of getting a majority of the House plus a supermajority of the Senate to do the same. Of course, Republicans as well as Democrats have used reconciliation numerous times to wring savings out of Medicare. But this proposal is not just the usual staggering hypocrisy. The immediate purpose is to render Obama's health care reform impossible. But the long term effect would be to render any Republican reform impossible. How do Republicans propose to fulfill their vision of government when any forty Senators can block a dime of Medicare cuts? Don't they ever aspire to govern?

Sigh. That pretty much sums it up.  Clowns to the left of me, jokers to my right.  Here I am.


  1. I hate the health care bill. I'm not anti-abortion but I'm not crazy about the idea of Federal funds paying for it. However.

    I don't think it's really that out of line for progressive women to wonder why, in the great sweep of progressive issues, it's somehow always seems to be issues of concern to women that get the short end of the stick.

    My answer, of course, would be that progressives know that progressive women will continue to vote Democratic no matter how they're treated. Your mileage may vary.

  2. Time to join the coffee party...


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.