Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 4, 2010

'MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD'.... Towards the end of his remarks yesterday on health care reform, President Obama urged Congress to schedule a final vote on the legislation. He then added: "And I urge every American who wants this reform to make their voice heard as well --- every family, every business, every patient, every doctor, every nurse, every physician's assistant. Make your voice heard."

This wasn't just a rhetorical plea. The White House knows that if this once-in-a-generation opportunity is going to come to fruition, Americans who actually care about health care reform are going to have to do more than just watch from the sidelines.

Right-wing activists, the insurance industry, and their allies aren't treating this fight like a spectator sport.

I live in Upstate NY and there is a commercial running quite frequently urging people to call Arcuri and tell him to vote no. They link him to Pelosi and spew a lot of untruths (income tax surcharge, massive medicare cuts, government take over of health care) and suggest that Arcuri is the critical vote. I think the commercial is from Concerned Voters of America.

Greg Sargent asks, "Where the heck is the air cover from the left for these vulnerable Dems? It's not as if time is on the Dems' side here."

Good question. I suspect some of this is the result of spent coffers. Reform advocates had invested in ads late last year, when the House and Senate were voting. Once both chambers had passed their bills, and success appeared inevitable, the push slowed down, fundraising was scaled back, and organizations began thinking about strategies for the midterm election season. The left isn't spending heavily to get reform across the finish line right now because it -- unlike insurers and the corporate lobbying groups -- doesn't necessarily have the money left to spend.

But grassroots activists can make up the difference, if they want to. There's been a lot of talk about an "enthusiasm gap" in 2010, with right-wing Republicans feeling engaged and energized, while progressive Democrats feel listless and unmotivated. And while this dynamic will likely help GOP candidates in November, it's also poised to be a make-or-break dynamic on health care.

The right -- misguided, misled, and confused -- is fighting as hard as it knows how to kill health care reform. Whether the left is prepared to put up a similar effort is unclear. Indeed, by some indications, progressives who would presumably be ready to do whatever it takes to deliver on the promise of reform, aren't prepared to fight at all -- some of the most liberal lawmakers on the Hill are now threatening to side with far-right GOP lawmakers to kill health care reform entirely.

Jon Chait added:

The enthusiasm gap and the significant chunks of opposition from the left have damaged the chances of any reform passing.... When you see things like Michael Arcuri (D-NY) threatening to switch his health care vote from yes to no, every Democratic activist in his district should be counter-threatening to support a primary challenger or general election protest vote unless he backs the final bill. Nothing like that is happening, because the most committed Democrats believe, absurdly, that the final bill has been compromised down to something that only barely improves the status quo.

Success or failure on health care will very likely come down to a simple equation: which side wants it more? Reform proponents took a big step in November 2008 when they elected policymakers committed to getting this done. Now it's time for the next step. If progressives fail to fight, reform will likely fail to pass.

Steve Benen 8:40 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

The left just isn't as "tough" as the right.

All talk....no action...this is why there is no real left in the US.

The "left" in the US, is all about abortion, porn, and dope...social welfare is for "the extremists"

Posted by: the dude on March 4, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK
Success or failure on health care will very likely come down to a simple equation: which side wants it more? Reform proponents took a big step in November 2008 when they elected policymakers committed to getting this done. Now it's time for the next step. If progressives fail to fight, reform will likely fail to pass.
And this is why the stupidity of pretending that everything will be A-OK if you just encourage the House to pass the Senate Bill if the Senate promises to make some minor tweaks that do jack-sheet to fix it (in some cases making matters worse, like the increase in the mandate penalty), is completely flawed.

You either try to get a coalition behind a bill people want, or you forget about support. The biggest flaw the wonks, the Rahmists, and Obama himself, have made in this whole debate has been to forget that the only reason the Democrats have power is because a sufficiently large number of people thought they were going to do something worthwhile. When Rahm complains mainstream democrats, in being critical of those they helped get elected breaking their promises, are being "fucking retarded", he's essentially taking support for granted, as if this is a game between two teams, one in red shirts, and one in blue.

It isn't a game. We expected results. At minimum, we expected to get something resembling the promises made to us.

No, it's not possible for progressives to get enthusiastic, or even supportive, about the current Insurance Industry Bailout Bill Obama is supporting. Why would we? Because you stuck the word "Healthcare Reform" in the title?

Give us something to be enthusiastic about, and we'll support it enthusiastically. We're not just going to support you because you're wearing the same shirts you did fifteen months ago.

Posted by: squiggleslash on March 4, 2010 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

OK, I'm ready to whip out my checkbook to fund some pro-health reform ads in districts of on-the-fence or persuadable House members. This is important, and if this fails, I don't want it to be because I failed to do something I should have. I've already made a bunch of calls to my Congresscritters, and they're now all on board in the necessary ways.

So who do I write the check to? My desire to contribute money needs a connection with some outfit that will use it effectively.

Posted by: low-tech cyclist on March 4, 2010 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

...and there's your answer.

As long as liberals keep re-assembling the circular firing squad whenever the chance to actually govern rears its (apparently) ugly head, the prospects of liberal governance remain dicey.

Posted by: larry birnbaum on March 4, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

larry - I'm hoping the day will come where we get the chance to govern, then we'll find out whether what you say is true or not.

We need to find someone who'll stand for liberal values both before and after they get elected though before that can happen. (OK, change that to "into power" - does anyone think Gore would have gone back to being a liberal if he'd actually become President?) What the f--- is wrong with our politicians?

Posted by: squiggleslash on March 4, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

Can we stop calling it the "enthusiasm gap"? It's a stupidity celebration.

Posted by: danp on March 4, 2010 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Call me old-fashioned if you want, but I didn't vote for anybody on the premise that, if elected, they'd need me to constantly reassure them, hold their hand, or whisper in their ear in order to get them to do the right thing.

If that's what it takes, if I have to be constantly on the phone, or donating (and this has been going on for a year now), then what the hell's the point of "representative government"?

Forget it. I'm done. I donated, I called, I signed petitions, I sent emails, and if, now, they say that's not enough, they need more, then we'll just have to live without it until we can get better representatives.

Posted by: Charles on March 4, 2010 at 9:07 AM | PERMALINK

why is there no way to E-mail all of congress at once or selected members as one choosed rather then specific members and what is with all the preffixes: Mr., Mrs. Miss, Ms Lt. General, Busperson, Dr., etc.

Posted by: Keith Loomis on March 4, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

Nope. Time for the dems in congress to get their act TOGETHER. And time for the wavering dems to stop equating doing the right thing with their own political viability. This ain't about them. It is about us. If they can't see to that, then they don't deserve to be there.

Posted by: lou on March 4, 2010 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

Hey, what ever happened to that 'kill the bill' thing? It was a big thing just after the Senate health care reform bill passed, but it seems to have faded away.

Posted by: Ed Whitson on March 4, 2010 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

How many times do I have to call these people and voice my support for health care reform?!!! I've called all my own Congress people each several times on this issue over the past months, I've also emailed them repeatedly, I saw one in person when he came to town to talk to constituents,I've called people who DON'T represent me, I've screamed and hollered over the phone at Republican obstructionists, I've emailed Blue Dogs and chastised them as well, I've emailed the White House several times, what more do people have to do?

Posted by: Varecia on March 4, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

There was recently this very large and organized lefty group called "Obama for America", which showed with clear authority how grass-roots organization can trump the established entities with respect to fundraising and getting the word out.

Such a group would have been (and would still be) quite useful in targeting vacillating Dems to vote yes on HCR.

But from most accounts, OFA was largely put to pasture in favor of listening to the establishment once Obama entered office. People who are part of OFA have been left languishing, and this recently powerful engine has been sputtering largely due to Administration neglect.

I wonder if someone will realize what (arguably) got Obama et al. into office, and how re-engaging the millions of OFA donors and supporters might help their cause in the next few years?

Posted by: terraformer on March 4, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Once again, it comes down to being our fault. I've called, written, donated, but apparently we're to blame if some chickenshit politicians don't have the integrity or ideals to actually vote for the issues they campaigned on.

For a year now, progressives have basically been told to STFU. But now, late in the day, the party comes back and tell us that we're the ones that have to push HCR through. And if it doesn't pass, it's just got to be those "fucking retarded" progressives that messed it all up.

Posted by: bdop4 on March 4, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

"If progressives fail to fight, reform will likely fail to pass."

Count this progressive out. While the once-upon-a-time self-proclaimed 'progressive' -- Obama -- was undermining the public option with very faint praise and striking hideous bargains with the Pharma industry, he essentially was giving liberals in the House and Senate nothing but slaps in the face.

I am not a corporation. I have limited means. I have to rely on my own money, not the profits generated with other people's money.

Consequently, I intend to use what time and money I have to support ONLY those politicians who are reliable liberals. I will not spend one dime -- or one postage stamp, or one minute of my life -- supporting so-called 'moderates' or 'blue dogs' or, frankly, Obama-files. They can't be trusted to do the right thing. Obama showed us that by his example.

Posted by: John B. on March 4, 2010 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Look people we knew that this was going to be difficult. We will have to fight to the bitter end.

Posted by: Micheline on March 4, 2010 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

If this were a better bill, you can be sure the left would be fighting hard to get it passed.

Posted by: desmoinesdem on March 4, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

squiggleslash: I'm hoping the day will come where we get the chance to govern

Really? All your actions are consistent with someone who sincerely hopes he'll never get the chance to govern and does everything possible to ensure he won't. God help you if you ever had to shut your huge piehole and actually take some actions to prove yourself instead of throwing rocks all day from your sofa.

Posted by: Art on March 4, 2010 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Look, it is not difficult. You can't campaign one way, then govern entirely differently, and expect motivated political junkies (the democratic wing of the democratic party) not to notice. And it's not just HCR. Look at the billions given to the bankers, and the pittance to main street. No financial reform. No prosecutions.

"Change we can believe in"??? Obama has discredited the word "change" for a hundred years, being even more of a "business as usual" wuss than BillC even was, and that was pretty appalling.

Look, you can't piss on your base for a year, ignore them, then call them "retarded" (notice Rahm apologized to *every* interest group BUT the base over that?) and them expect them to rise up in enthusiasm when you suddenly discover that you need them.

Posted by: an old guy on March 4, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

It's not that progressives haven't been fighting. That's absurd. It's just that making threats and having tantrums is a lot easier than the heavy lift of getting Congress to actually DO something.

Progressives were fighting enthusiastically last summer, back when the deadline to get this done was August, the Senate leadership was playing pointless games with Chuck Grassley, and the White House was still playing "um, you guys on the Hill, figure it out and get back to me." Progressives were fighting in December, to get the damn Senate to pass the bill already, and make sure the damn supermajority happened. Progressives have been working hard, for a long time. It's not like the last time they lifted a finger was voting in 2008.

Part of the original political wisdom behind the August deadline was that the longer the process drew out, the easier it would be for the opposition to wear it down and destroy it. That has been the GOP game plan, and there are plenty of us who have been jumping up and down screaming as the Democratic 'leadership' played right into their hands. Now, after more than a year of progressive action, complaining about an "enthusiasm gap" is pretty damn insulting to tired people who have been waiting for their enthusiasm to be matched by the people who were elected to do the job, and who are, in the end, the ones who have to Pass The Damn Bill Already.

Posted by: biggerbox on March 4, 2010 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK
If progressives fail to fight, reform will likely fail to pass.

You have that exactly backwards, Steve. Look at your own comments from time to time.

Too many "progressives" aka firebaggers have decided there aren't enough ponies in this effort for them, so they want HCR to die just as much as the teabaggers do (just for different reasons).

Posted by: John S. on March 4, 2010 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK

"The biggest flaw the wonks, the Rahmists, and Obama himself, have made in this whole debate has been to forget that the only reason the Democrats have power is because a sufficiently large number of people thought they were going to do something worthwhile."

This is exactly right.

Problem: Health care costs too much and isn't universally affordable. After this bill passes, I still won't be able to afford health insurance.

So, why would I get all excited about it? what for?

A tax cut, when I'm not earning enough to afford insurance? What good is that going to do me? Republicans are screaming that they "your health care is not my problem." Democrats surrender to them and argue about inadequate subsidies and can't get even those.

I want Medicare for all, not because it sounds nice or to provide a "Kumbayah moment" for the left, but because it's the ONLY system in the entire Earth that works.

Every other advanced country has it. NOBODY has managed to design a system WITHOUT public government provided insurance that works. Anywhere.

This "solution" doesn't solve the problem, so exactly what good is it?

At this point, I hope HCR passes just to piss-off the wing-nuts. But I can't get all that worked up about it because it just isn't remotely enough to do me personally any good.

Posted by: Cugel on March 4, 2010 at 11:44 AM | PERMALINK

"Progressives were fighting enthusiastically last summer, back when the deadline to get this done was August, the Senate leadership was playing pointless games with Chuck Grassley, and the White House was still playing "um, you guys on the Hill, figure it out and get back to me."

That was really when the air went out of the balloon. When Obama refused to demand that the Senate FINISH the job BEFORE the "August recess" I knew that this was never going to be anything but a total Chinese Fire-Drill.

When he just let Max Baucus waste 5 months "negotiating" with Republicans, that was the betrayal. Obama WANTED a sell-out bill that was "bi-partisan" to begin with. THAT was the real problem.

Obama refused to mobilize the nation for an expansion of Medicare back in March. Instead he played his brilliant "10-dimensional chess" with that Genius Rahm Emanuel leading the charge.

So, here we are. Now he's leading a last-ditch effort to avoid total disaster and it's all too little, too late.

Posted by: Cugel on March 4, 2010 at 11:53 AM | PERMALINK

is there actually any proof to the assertion that "policymakers elected in November 2008 WERE committed to getting this done?"

at this point we have a moderate, blue-doggy, gop-lite bill. why aren't the moderates responsible for success or failure?

look, the only reason i vote in off year elections is to attempt to keep republicans out of office, and i'll drag myself to the polls and do it again, but what are the folks who voted for change getting that might motivate them to do the same?

Posted by: dj spellchecka on March 4, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Art - When you have more than insults and absurd assertions, I'll be here to listen to your arguments. I doubt you can describe a single action I've taken that would be inconsistent with wanting liberals to finally get into power. I even supported Obama, back when he was pretending to be a liberal.

Posted by: squiggleslash on March 4, 2010 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

I even supported Obama, back when he was pretending to be a liberal.

And thereby you expose still more of your bewilderment and self-delusion. Obama never pretended to be a liberal. Ever. When you stop living by projection alone, you might notice that people aren't necessarily what you desperately want them to be and pretend they are despite all evidence to the contrary. You might also grasp that progressives are actually a much smaller minority than your fevered imagination had supposed. At that point, you might stop shooting yourself in the toe hoping the result will be an even stronger foot.

Posted by: Art on March 4, 2010 at 12:10 PM | PERMALINK

Art - again, When you have more than insults and absurd assertions, I'll be here to listen to your arguments. Oh, and the Obama I was supporting quite explicitly supported a Public Option and rejected a mandate.

Sure, maybe I was getting ahead of myself in thinking, as most of the country did, that he was an actual liberal, but I count myself amongst most of the country in thinking that.

And as I said from the start, when we finally have liberals in power, people like Larry can complain that we have a circular firing squad. Right now, we don't. We have a pro-corporate government that's just expecting us, the progressive left, to support a bailout for insurance companies using the pretense that it's a healthcare reform bill, a government lead by people, like Obama, who explicitly stated this was the opposite of what they'd do.

And this is happening when the liberal policies are popular, when poll after poll after poll shows hostility to the Senate Bill but support for changes to it that would make it progressive, be that drastic changes such as single payer, or more subtle changes such as the Public Option.

These people in government are not liberals, they do not have liberal values, and they are proposing anti-liberal policies. For anyone to complain that by attacking them we're engaged in a "circular firing squad" is, well, "f---ing retarded."

Posted by: squiggleslash on March 4, 2010 at 12:19 PM | PERMALINK
After this bill passes, I still won't be able to afford health insurance.

So, why would I get all excited about it? what for?

Maybe for the millions of other people that it WILL help? Maybe so that there is something to build upon so you CAN have affordable insurance sooner rather than later?

Nice to see that self-interest is alive and well on the left, too.

Posted by: John S. on March 4, 2010 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

John S.:Maybe for the millions of other people that it WILL help? Maybe so that there is something to build upon so you CAN have affordable insurance sooner rather than later?

I was thinking the same thing. Self-absorption and bubble thinking aren't limited to the right (although you can't be a Republican without them).

squiggleslash: And as I said from the start, when we finally have liberals in power

Yeah, you do keep saying it, but you don't seem to have any plan for making it happen, sonny. Wishing ain't concrete action.

Posted by: Allen on March 4, 2010 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Alien - My apologies, my UN-destruct-o-beam is out of order, so obviously plan A is out of the question, and I am at a loss to describe any of my other secret plans of the type you appear to be interested, to put liberals into power beyond the one I've already mentioned I've done, which is support politicians when they appear to be liberal, and criticize anti-liberal policies.

In any case, this is beside the point. The point is that anyone claiming that liberals are engaged in a circular firing squad because we're attacking the current government is, well, f---ing retarded.

Let us know when you understand that simple concept.

Posted by: squiggleslash on March 4, 2010 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Really? Really? Y'all are mad at Obama for not being as progressive as you hoped, and so, as his punishment, you're going to let countless Americans die? I mean actually, literally die? That's how you're going to show Obama how mad you are?

REALLY?

Posted by: YDV on March 4, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

YDV, you must be new to this website.

Posted by: Ed Whitson on March 4, 2010 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK
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