Thursday, December 10, 2009

Learn To Walk Away

Image credit: Found it here

One needs to look no further than Steve Benen's excellent Political Animal blog to understand just how contradictory the health care reform process has been. In one article he wrote:

Congressional Republicans have acted like spoiled children throughout a year of crisis -- throwing tantrums, lying constantly, making nonsensical claims, offering insane ideas, embracing conspiracy theories, giving up entirely on seriousness of thought -- and they're nevertheless just about tied with the majority party on a generic congressional ballot.

It's the underlying dilemma for reform-minded conservatives like Frum and Bruce Bartlett. After humiliating failures in 2006 and 2008, Republicans needed to readjust to the political mainstream. GOP leaders at every level refused -- but the party is gaining ground anyway.

There's no "principle that obliges [Republicans] to be stupid," but if their stupidity is rewarded by the electorate, they'll feel no incentive to be more sensible.

The Failure To Negotiate

Then in a succeeding article:

So, the public option aspect of this has all been negotiated away, in exchange for other progressive goals. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), whose opposition has been based on an evolving, almost-fanatical hatred of public-private competition, has to be thrilled, right?

Well, at least Olympia Snowe, the original trigger proponent, is still in play right? I'm afraid not -- she said today she can't tolerate Medicare expansion.

If legislation could be approved by a majority vote of the Senate, this sure would be easier.

Lieberman On Irritants

[all links from original articles]

Two things about this are frustrating. First, it's obvious that the bad-faith politics that the GOP is practicing here are being rewarded. Largely, this is due to American voters' ignorance of both the legislation and the issues it addresses. More depressingly, they seem to know more about this issue than about many other important issues before Congress.

The other reason it's frustrating is that it's quite clear that while conservatives are willing to play the game of walking away from a bad deal, congressional progressives are not. They should have walked away long ago. With rare exceptions, they haven't even put up the appearance of a struggle. Anti-abortion policy was allowed to creep into the House bill, and the Senate has now dealt away the public option. Yet progressives haven't yet told their leaders to do better. For the most part, the progressives aren't the ones who need this deal - it's the moderates and the leadership, including President Obama, who need it. Yet the progressives are the ones who are desperate to please.

What conservatives are demonstrating here is that you only have power to make a good deal if you're willing to walk away from a bad one. The conservatives have that willingness, and the progressives don't.

That's one of the reasons we're getting boned.

There are plenty of excuses, of course. Lots of folks are writing them now. It's the practical course. There are so many other things that Congress and the President need to screw up, excuse me, work on. Liberal policies are always being hammered by the press, especially on television news. There's some truth in these things, but so freakin' what? Did these congresspeople run for office just so they could have a job? If they didn't want to do difficult things, they shouldn't have run for office in the first place. It's a tough job, and it may not last. That's another way that progressive congressmen need to learn to walk away. Because, as a very wise person once told me, you can't do a job well unless you're willing to leave it. If you're not, you're always going to be doing whatever the boss tells you to do, no matter how immoral or counterproductive it is.

And these guys really suck at theirs.

UPDATE: I've added the "rare exceptions" link above, which is a Talking Points Memo article about Rep. Raul Grijalva's (AZ-07) thoughts about the proposed Senate bill. Rep. Grijalva is leader of the House Progressive Caucus. He says it won't pass the House in its current form, which doesn't include a public option (well, more accurately, includes a public option that will never exist).

While I suspect Rep. Grijalva would vote against such a thing, and perhaps a few other progressives would join him, I'm pretty sure that most of them will fold. It's what they do.

I also added links to articles by Ballgame and Glenn Greenwald lambasting the sort of excuse-making nonsense that has been more in evidence recently.


Dana Hunter said...

Three things I see needed to happen. The progressives needed to entrench. Harry Reid needed to take Joe Lieberman's gavel away and kick him the hell out of the caucus the moment he started mucking about with McCain. And then he needed to tell the Cons that if they wanted a filibuster, they'd better be laying in a supply of Depends and gargling salt water.

And metaphorically breaking Ben Nelson's fingers might not have been a bad idea, either.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. At this point, I just hope we end up with something we can build on.

Cujo359 said...

I'd call that a fond hope, at best. The effectiveness of the legislation now largely rests on the government's interest in enforcing whatever regulations are in the bill. Considering that Congress and the Obama Administration have been happy to let the insurance industry lead them around by the nose and bitch slap them, I think the chances of that are nil.