Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Birth of a Backbone?

Writing for The Nation, William Greider claims that the jury is still out on whether President Obama somehow lost his strategic and tactical genius as the health care “debate” has unfolded or whether the more progressive aspects of his mishmash of vague proposals were always just window-dressing and that he is and always has been a Blue Dog-Max Baucus think alike. Perhaps Greider is right. I think it’s pretty clear, though, that the latter hypothesis is the right one. My evidence: that from the moment his campaign got going, Obama positioned himself towards the center-right of the group seeking the nomination (only Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were worse); and that from the moment he won the nomination, he bounded further rightward; a process that has only become worse since Inauguration Day. I have supported these claims in countless preceding entries.

I have also argued repeatedly that the Democrats are nothing if not pusillanimous, and that “progressive” Democrats are among the most pusillanimous of all. I think Obama and Company were of a similar view. They seem to have been convinced that no matter how thoroughly the Obama administration would morph into a more competent version of the Bush administration, that liberals would stand by their man. But now, for the first time since Obamamania began, it’s beginning to look like the jury may be out on this last contention too. At long last, some House Democrats – in both the Progressive and Black Caucuses – along with some of their supporters in organized labor and on Obama-friendly web sites are showing signs of evolving into the vertebrate subphylum.

It seems that the retreat from a “public option,” floated over the weekend by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and others, was the last straw for many, and that at least some Democrats are now prepared to do the right thing – which, as I maintained recently, requires standing firm, even if it means scuttling heath insurance reform altogether. It now appears that this show of nascent courage has even registered in the highest circles of our “bipartisan” President’s administration. This is a turn of events to be welcomed wholeheartedly, and encouraged by all means. This means turning up the heat, and demanding action – not just on Obama and Company, but on liberal Democrats as well. Remember, liberal Democrats are, in the end, still Democrats -- so, no matter how hopeful things might seem, there is always the danger that they will revert back to their true, spineless nature.

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