Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 8, 2009

PRESSURE FROM THE LEFT CAN HAVE AN EFFECT.... Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) of Arkansas hasn't exactly been a reliable champion of progressive policy goals. In the context of the debate over health care, Lincoln has been one of the least likely Democrats to support the public option endorsed by most Democratic lawmakers, the president, and the public.

With that in mind, Lincoln's op-ed in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette struck an interesting note. (The piece is behind a subscription wall.)

Health care reform must build upon what works and improve inefficiencies. Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan.

It sounds like Lincoln is almost there. Her reference to a "non-profit plan" probably relates to the co-op proposal some Republicans are willing to tolerate, and which is a poor substitute for more meaningful reform, but notice that Lincoln is otherwise on solid ground here. President Obama envisions a Health Care Exchange in which consumer choose from a range of competing options, including a "quality, affordable public plan." Just as soon as Lincoln drops that co-op idea, she'll be right where she needs to be.

Indeed, her op-ed goes on to rebut critics from the right.

Unfortunately, opponents of reform, who have no real plan for improving health care, are already using the tired arguments of the past. They say that Congress is trying to create "more government" or a "Washington takeover" of health care, which will raise your taxes, get between you and your doctor, and eliminate private insurance. It's a strategy that spreads misinformation and generates fear to preserve the status quo. Arkansans should not be misled by those who oppose real reform.

Keep in mind, there's been some discussion of late about whether progressive pressure on some of the less-liberal Dems is worthwhile. It's worth remembering, then, that Lincoln's reluctance to support a public option "had made her a top target of the left," and the Arkansas senator was poised to face a new round of ads in her home state on this issue.

Under the circumstances, I'm very much inclined to think the left should keep the pressure on. It seems to be having the desired effect.

Steve Benen 3:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (27)

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You're right, Steve, and I think the comments made by Obama to senators that outside pressure should cease was part of a big kabuki dance. The president was trying to keep moderate/conservative Democrats with him by feigning sympathy for them being pressured from the left.

Posted by: Amy on July 8, 2009 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

In light of Sprawl-Mart's decision a week or so ago as it regards healthcare, does Blanche Lincoln op-ed really surprise anyone?

Posted by: Nathan on July 8, 2009 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

I think Kay Hagen (D-NC) got a little citizenry-induced spinal electroshock last month, as well...

Posted by: neill on July 8, 2009 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Amy: I'm withholding judgment on what Obama really had in mind with that. He might have been doing that, and it is certainly true that he hasn't actually taken any overt steps to stop the attacks. But he's also a bit too big on this whole "let's come together and work it out" approach for my tastes. He keeps pointing out that "I won," but he doesn't really act like it.

I know he isn't stupid; he must realize that a lot of these people whose backs he is patting are obstructing his agenda, at least passively if not actively. Why isn't he taking a stronger stand against them?

Posted by: Shade Tail on July 8, 2009 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

"probably relates to the co-op proposal"

Probably. The thing about non profit co-op's is that they already exist. There is a big one in Washington State:

Because Co-op's already exist creating them is unlikely to be a big improvement. However I would be fine with some measures to encourage the formation or expansion of non-profit non-government insurers in addition to a federal public insurance plan.

Why not give it a shot?

I have no problem with it if it works.

What I have a problem with is eliminating possible solutions, like the public option, that if they work well will be ideologically uncomfortable to certain people or unprofitable to certain narrow interests.

Posted by: JeffF on July 8, 2009 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

Is anyone who highlights this going to see fit to point out Wal-Mart's recent foray in the debate, or is the entire blogosphere going to convince itself that it's really Digby and Jane Hamsher that the Senator from a state john McCain carried by 20% is concerned about?

Posted by: Brien Jackson on July 8, 2009 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

Blank Lincoln (DINO, Ar) does only her master's bidding. What the guys at WallyWorld International say is what she does.

Wish we could replace her. In the meantime, I refuse to vote for her.

Posted by: Roger on July 8, 2009 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Lincoln basically already saying here that she'll vote for a "quality, affordable public plan"?

Posted by: John on July 8, 2009 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

I'm very much inclined to think the left should keep the pressure on. It seems to be having the desired effect.

That, and Walmart's shift on the issue.

Posted by: Andy on July 8, 2009 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

72% (or more) of the population wants a public health care option. A politician on the wrong side of that kind of majority is in a bad spot. They know that. If we keep pointing that out, eventually they will see it, and will have no choice but to get on board.

Posted by: JPS on July 8, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Good to see I'm not the first person to mention the W word.

Posted by: Disputo on July 8, 2009 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure that WalMart's turn around is of primary importance in Lincoln's turn around. Could wish that Bayh's and Landirieu's puppet masters had a similar change of heart and lengthened their strings a tad, too. OTOH... Don't stop pushing her (and others); it can't *hurt*.

Who, BTW, is the moneybags of the DSCC now? It used to be Schumer, but I don't think it still is. A little nudge from that direction ought to help some, too. Every 5 cents counts, when you're trying to scramble up a dollar.

Posted by: exlibra on July 8, 2009 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, and let's get some of that pressure on Bayh and the rest of the DINO's, too.

Posted by: Curmudgeon on July 8, 2009 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for point out the Group Health Co-op, JeffF (@3:56). I thought about them when the issue was first introduced into the Congressional rhetoric, but forgot to mention it.

Hubby is on GHC, and for the most part, it's pretty good. The only problem that arises is when you need more specialized treatment, but that's because there's a dearth of specialists in some fields. He's had no problem with "normal" ailments like colds or the flu, but hubby also had back surgery about three years ago for a herniated disk, and it's looking like he will need to have surgery again. Unless it's an extremely urgent situation, wait times to even see a neurosurgeon can be in the months, not days or weeks.

More specialists in the co-op would alleviate that. A public option would be an even better ameliorative because it would, theoretically, be universal.

Posted by: Michael W on July 8, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Amy, I'll believe your interpretation when Obama puts a muzzle on Rahm Emanuel, who has repeatedly undercut efforts to get strong legislation out of Congress by adopting talking points from the center-right.

Posted by: Joe Buck on July 8, 2009 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Well, none of us know for sure what Rahm and Obama are doing but I think that at least 50% of what politicians say during a policy fight is kabuki and the rest is actual substantive discussion. There are many political moving parts in health care reform and a key element is ritually indicating respect to those who actually vote. We need anthropologists to help figure out these stylized rituals because they must be performed to get things through and it would be helpful to have a guidebook to the Culture of Congress.

Posted by: Amy on July 8, 2009 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Curmudgeon; it is more than past time to put some heat on Evan Bayh. He needs to get his ass kicked.

Posted by: Rayl on July 8, 2009 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

Bayh is likely still holding a grudge for not being picked as vp. That's why he wants so much stroking. Again, it's the ritual of politics - which also includes ritualized displays of power. Bayh wants people to know he matters. Reid and Obama have to indicate that but also indicate that he now needs to stop joining with obstructionists.

Posted by: Amy on July 8, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

"...Why not give it a shot?.."-JeffF

Why experiment around and possibly waste time and resources when there is a plan in place already that would be most successful...Medicare for all.

They know how to handle the cost already but dump confusion and mis-information as a distraction. It's all about appeasing the HC ins. profiteers because they know what a complete success Medicare for all can be.

They know they can't compete with a not for profit plan because at best they would only make a small profit and certainly couldn't pay out $1.7 billion to their CEO like they did Bill McGuire.
Medicare for all would spread out the cost and increase the coverage without the flaws of pre existing conditions cancellations that so many "insured' fall into now. A small increase in taxes would result in much less than you're paying now plus there are many other options such as rolling back the Reagan tax cuts or a tax on wall street trading etc.

Lobbyists are spending $1.4mil/day to block such an option because it would be completely successful. Greed is the motivator... and people should be more important.

Posted by: bjobotts on July 8, 2009 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Draft text of Kennedy HELP bill available for comment online (not as PDF).

Posted by: lambert strether on July 8, 2009 at 6:41 PM | PERMALINK

"Why experiment around and possibly waste time and resources when there is a plan in place already that would be most successful...Medicare for all."

Because there is zero chance of Medicare for all being enacted for at least several years and it easily could be a decade or two or never and every year resources are wasted that dwarf whatever co-op encouragement measures could be taken anyway.

The idea for health care reform I came up with myself was medicare 0-18. I think that could possibly have been put into law.

Demanding medicare for all or nothing is a Nader vote.

Posted by: JeffF on July 8, 2009 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

The "public option" plan being discussed in Congress is a sham designed to protect the health insurance industry. (How long do we imagine it'll take for insurance companies to drop their least profitable clients onto the "public" rolls once such a plan is in place?) Bill Moyers had a really enlightening discussion with Donna Smith of the California Nurse's Association and with Dr. David Himmelstein of Physicians for a National Health Policy and Dr. Sidney Wolff (sp?) of Public Citizen a couple of weeks back. (It's available via the PBS podcast.) All agree that the answer to the national health care crisis is to shut down the health insurance industry, remove the profit motive from the equation and provide a single-payer solution. That such an option isn't on the table is testament to the depth of the health insurance industry's pockets and the depth therein to which our elected representatives have burrowed.

Posted by: wheresthebeef on July 8, 2009 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK

Wish more progressives would acknowledge that there is lots of pressure from the left that isn't discussed or reported on in the blogosphere. Bloggers see MoveOn ads going up & some calls from online activists, a Senator shifting positions, and then, the claim is that it was the bloggers and MoveOn that got the Senator to shift his/her position.

Not all pressure is the same, and quite frankly, for some of the most reluctant Democratic Senators, they could care less about MoveOn and many national bloggers. Why? Because they know despite whatever claims are out there, that these guys are not responsible for their wins.

There are meetings being held in state between doctors, small business owners, and Senators that are as influential or more influential to some of the reluctant Democrats than is ever acknowledged by the blogs. There are protests led by unions and in-state progressive activists that have gotten some local media attention (and therefore a Senator's attention). There are the letters being collected by state based progressive organizations. There are meetings with influential people and organizations in these states that can provide cover for wavering Democrats.

but all anyone in the blogosphere talks about is the national bloggers and ads from some organizations that quite frankly aren't that influential with the most reluctant of Dems.

There is definitely pressure from the left that is working on these reluctant Democrats, as well as other efforts to provide political cover for those Democrats. But the pressure from the left that is working best isn't necessarily the actions that get credited by bloggers.

Posted by: Newsie8200 on July 8, 2009 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

What's the deal with the Wal-Mart comments? I thought they came out in support of Employee / Individual Mandates, not a public option. Or did I miss some implication of the mandate approach?

Posted by: vic on July 8, 2009 at 11:16 PM | PERMALINK

Steve: "It sounds like Lincoln is almost there."

Yep, she only needs one more swift kick in her backside to push her across that finish line.

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on July 9, 2009 at 12:30 AM | PERMALINK

I would suggest that if we keep putting pressure after we have gotten some success, it will be counterproductive. When someone does what they should, they need to be rewarded, not further punished.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on July 9, 2009 at 1:18 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: Hsjzlmkz on July 14, 2009 at 2:14 AM | PERMALINK



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