When only a hissy fit will do

To be honest, I still don’t know where I stand on the current Senate version of the health care “reform” bill. As the quotation marks around the word reform imply, I share many of the concerns raised by Governor Dean and other opponents to the current Senate bill. But I also agree with much of what Paul Krugman, Steve Benen and others who still reluctantly support passage have to say.

So I rock back and forth in the fetal position, flopping this way then that. At one moment, I worry the bill will be a political disaster — a gift to the insurance industry that will push the cause of true reform back another 30 years. At the next moment, I’m struck by the undeniable fact that the bill, even with all its flaws, will still save countless lives.

But of one thing I am certain: this dispute and how it has been handled has badly shaken my “kinship” to President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership.

And, yes, there is a large emotional element in why I feel that way. Like many liberals, I feel sold out. It began, I suppose, when Obama and the Democrats put the interests of bankers and Wall Street ahead of those of ordinary working people. Sure, they had to do something to prevent a second Great Depression. But did they have to do it in a way that will make the rich even richer, while doing almost nothing for the middle class and the poor? Somehow I seem to remember something from the campaign about spreading the money around a little.

The sellout of liberals, to my mind anyway, then continued as Obama filled his cabinet with what used to be called New Democrats, while including virtually no truly progressive voices. Jesus, card-carrying Republicans are better represented in Obama’s inner circle than progressive Democrats. I sometimes wonder whether liberals wouldn’t be better off if we became full-fledged enemies of the president: maybe then we too could become part of his “The Team of Rivals.”

 Liberals also feel sold out, of course, by the way a whole host of progressive priorities, from gay rights to renewed respect for civil liberties, have been pushed to the back of the bus, and in all too many cases, completely thrown off the bus onto the side of the road. And, finally, to bring us to the issue of the day, we definitely feel sold out by Obama’s apparent conclusion that liberals are part of the problem to passing a good health care bill, rather than part of the solution. That we are people to be mollified where necessary, but ultimately ignored. 

Whatever the Beltway crowd may think in their insular Georgetown-cocktail-party-splendor, this is not the irrational rage of an “angry left.” And when Beltway Democrats — and, yes, that includes the one who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — adopt this convenient conventional wisdom as their own, it isn’t just a lie: it’s a betrayal.  

But ah what a fine storyline — the liberal base of the Democratic Party discounted as a slightly different reincarnation of the teabaggers of the right. Two opposing groups of crazies who should be deemed to cancel each other out. Meanwhile, we all await breathlessly the arrival of those glorious “centrists” — most notably, of course, Saint Joe Lieberman himself — to ride in to save the union!

So here we stand: the very people whose years of hard work helped put the Democrats in the catbird seat, finding ourselves largely out of the loop.

The question obviously becomes then: what are we supposed to do about it? And the answer, I think, is that we’re supposed to do precisely what we’ve already started doing. We’re supposed to throw a hissy fit: we’re supposed to scream and growl and stomp our feet. We’re supposed to demand that we be listened to, that we be taken seriously. And, yes, we’re supposed to threaten to take our ball and go home. And we’re supposed to mean it.

The political calculation at play couldn’t be any clearer. Obama has concluded that we liberals are in the bag; we may whine and shout and carry on, but in the end we’ll be there. It’s the Joe Liebermans and the Olympia Snowes he has to listen to and cut deals with. He had to, for example, lavishly thank Snowe for temporarily supporting the Baucus Bill when it was voted out of committee, while at the same time ignoring years of hard work in this area by Jay Rockefeller.

Well, that equation is about to change. And you can see the impetus for that change in the rage that’s buzzing around the Internet even as we speak. A rage also demonstrated in Obama’s falling poll numbers.

Liberals are through being taken for granted. Sure, compromise is necessary; we won’t get half of what we want most of the time and we shouldn’t expect to. But the days of the progressive core of the Democratic Party being the ones who ALWAYS have to give in are over. And if Obama & Co. don’t see that now, then it will be our job to make it clear to them.

3 Responses to “When only a hissy fit will do”

  1. Chuck Says:

    That makes me ever more reluctant to ever vote for, or against anybody running for political office. They all seem to be liars & willing to sell out to the highest bidder.

  2. Larkrise Says:

    Obama thinks the people who knocked on doors, who got petitions signed and people registered, who brought those people to the polls, and who manned the campaign offices, will come crawling back in 2012. Well, Sonny, I won’t. Mr. Obama, I dont have the energy to waste on someone who has the Big Head, who plays games, who makes empty promises, who takes me for granted. Me and a few million others. We are PISSED. You can take your Rahm Emmanuel, Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe and shove ‘em where the sun don’t shine. You can play to the center all you want, BUT the center wont spend 10 minutes of their fence-stradling time helping you get re-elected. Capiche?! You need True Believers to carry the water, and you have poisoned the water. I am dumping my bucket. I didn’t even get this angry with Bill Clinton, when he couldnt keep his pants zipped. I hope the House kicks butt when they get this piece of poison, if they get it, to try to make it even halfway decent. The sad thing is, YOU dont care! You just want a paper with letters on it to feature in a signing ceremony, so you can claim you enabled health care reform. Meanwhile, the long-suffering Middle Class gets sucker punched again. I no longer trust anything you say. It is all hot air. You dangled a dream, then snatched it away. I will NEVER forgive you for that. I will NEVER forgive you for being just another politician, when you could have been so much more. I will never forgive you for the promise of change, dashed on the tawdry scrap heap of political expediency. I have given up hope. It is wasted energy. You gave yourself a B+. I think you have failed, in more ways than one.

  3. PK Says:

    The cold, hard fact—the rock on which the health care reform ship is sinking—is that there are not enough progressives in the Senate to pass meaningful health care reform. Even the house had to water their bill down making a lot of progressives unhappy. Meaningful reform ain’t going to happen because the rest of the legislators really are in corporate pockets. All the fuss—all the wheeling and dealing—was to try to shake loose one or two of the corporate senators, to try to awaken a shriveled conscience in one or two of them. It didn’t happen because they don’t have consciences.

    I don’t think it is time yet to blame the progressives unless they make asses of themselves squabbling unrealistically about their failure, which was due to their inadequate numbers.

    The real job now is to educate the public. The public should be reminded about how much cheaper and how much better health care is in lots of other countries where it is publicly managed. The public should all be educated about sociopaths. The book, The Sociopath Next Door, by Martha Stout should be required reading, and then maybe the public wouldn’t elect so many of them to run amok in Washington while lying to their voters. There is a lot of talk now about how the voters are going to swing back to the Republicans because of the failure of health care reform. That would be like saying, “Since the white blood cells we elected to congress didn’t cure the disease, we are now going to vote for pathogenic bacteria.”

    Rachel Maddow recently gave a very nice little history lesson about how many years it took to get medicare and medicaid. I had been blissfully unaware about how many times bills for medicare had come up and were defeated in congress before it finally got passed in the Johnson Administration.

    In a country where corporate money dominates political fund raising and controls the media it is very hard not to be messed up the way we are now. Among the general public, only four percent of the people are sociopaths according to Martha Stout. The rest of us have consciences and believe in helping others and working for the common good. All we have to do is get the number of sociopaths in the legislative branch down to around 40% and then we can get somewhere.

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