Monday, August 17, 2009

Now Is the Time!

Even by the standards to which we’ve become accustomed, Republicans have long been, almost without exception, morally and intellectually execrable. They would be nothing more than a joke but for the fact that, with Democratic connivance, their power, as a wing of the reigning duopoly, is effectively institutionalized. Then remarkably, in the past few weeks, they’ve become even worse: rousting America’s Pathetic White Furies into action at the behest of those of their corporate masters who feel most threatened by Obama’s milquetoast health insurance reforms. In short, the Republican Party is fast approaching the point where it can no longer count as a “respectable” Right.

But there is nevertheless something sublime about Republican obstinacy; something “the democratic wing of the Democratic Party” needs urgently to take on board.

If reports this weekend are correct, if Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress are willing to give up entirely on “the public option” – not just to gut it, but to abandon it altogether – in order to appease right wing (“Blue Dog”) Democrats and to aim for “bipartisan” support; and if it’s true, as it seems to be, that, in order to win over (i.e. neutralize) the pharmaceutical industry’s lobbyists, Obama and Company have agreed to permit the lobbyists’ clients to charge pretty much whatever they like for their wares, as they have been doing all along, then the time is now past due for our ever so “reasonable” democratic Democrats to “just say No” too.

Now is emphatically not the time to win one for the Gipper – or rather for his twenty-first century “liberal” incarnation —but rather to outdo the (barely) respectable Right in obduracy. Democrats may think they need a “victory” at all costs, and many so-called progressives may agree. But if Obama gives up on even the pale semblance of reform he had been defending, then he is headed for a Pyrrhic victory only, and that’s the last thing anybody this side of the Blue Dogs needs.

In 1993, the Clintons set the cause of health insurance reform back a generation. Win or lose, Obama is doing it again.

Because he has been following the Clintons’ lead, this was to be expected. Of course, the conventional (Cokie Roberts) wisdom is that Obama learned from the Clintons’ mistakes. And, indeed, he involved Congress in crafting the legislation, as they did not (until too late), and he didn’t involve his wife, as they did. But these are trivial differences. Obama’s big mistake, like theirs, was to put the “stakeholders’” interests, the interests of the profiteers, above everything else, especially the interests of the stakeholders’ victims. Thus he set out to patch up a system that needs to be radically overhauled. In this way, Obama gave it all away before the “negotiations” even started, just as the Clintons did. Now he’s giving even more away as negotiations proceed.

This is why now is the time for Democrats who have not sunk to the Blue Dog level, to learn from those who have nothing but obduracy to offer. If it comes to that, they should have the courage to scuttle Obama’s “reforms,” not acquiesce in them. If they are clear and emphatic now, though, it might not come to that. In any case, as the public “discussion” bounds rightward, there is no other way.

This is a matter of the utmost urgency. It is becoming as clear as can be that as health insurance reform goes, so goes the rest of what most Obama voters thought they were electing. If there’s to be any chance of stopping the Bush (now Obama!) wars, establishing a “new deal” for organized labor, moving forward in a serious way to avert ecological catastrophes and, for that matter, setting our decrepit capitalist economy on a better course, a little backbone – here and now – is an indispensable first step.

Will Democratic “progressives” in the House and Senate evince a little backbone now, in the face of impending disaster, or will they cave? If the future is like the past, the answer is, alas, all too predictable.

No comments: