The Health Care Impasse: An Unmotivated Base or a Weak-Willed Leader?

Amanda Marcotte

The President and Congress practically beg liberals to rally around health care reform, but when we do, we are answered by passive-aggressive administration officials suggesting we just shut up.

This recent
article in the New York Times echos a refrain I’ve started to hear from many
are the health care reform supporters in this fight?  As town
halls flood wild-eyed right wingers with the heads stuffed full of conspiracy
theories about everything from "death panels" to the hope that they
can find some way to get the President’s citizenship invalidated,
they haven’t met much in the way of liberal opposition.  It’s
tempting to ask, as this article does, why it’s so hard for people
who rallied around to elect Obama and a whole roster of Democrats in
a show of progressive force aren’t able to muster the numbers to push
back against the straight up right wing nuttery and get health care

The reporter, Jeff Zeleny, makes stabs towards a reason why.  Many of the people
he interviews simply don’t have enough time to take out of jobs and
family to run what would amount to a non-stop campaign.  But what
he doesn’t address is a deeper, more interesting question–why should
they have to?  People did stand up and demand health care reform,
along with a host of other economic reforms, when they turned out in
droves to make Obama’s election an unprecedented victory based on
grassroots support.  That this was not enough is not their fault. 
It’s the fault of the weak-willed politicians who apparently need
to be validated every minute of the day to consider pushing for the
progressive policies they were elected to push.   

Even after months of the right
wing noise machine’s misinformation campaigns, the support for
health care reform that includes a public option stands at 77%
, if the pollsters ask honest questions. 
Sure, there are polls out there indicating otherwise, but generally
speaking, those are push polls that ask misleading questions that imply
that a public option would be mandatory.  Once that disinformation
is removed from the question, the people still support a public option. 
If the Democrats can’t pass a decent health care bill with that level
of support, and instead choose to pass a giveaway to insurance companies
that increases instead of decreases the people’s pain, then they have
no one to blame but themselves for their moral cowardice and addiction
to insurance lobbyist favors.  Hiding behind the screaming, racist
mobs at town halls and pretending that you couldn’t go around them
is simply dishonest.  Liberal politicians such as LBJ and JFK were
able to simply step around the racist mobs that used bullying tactics
in an attempt to shut down desegregation.  Democrats should look
at that historical example and learn.  Some people are too unreasonable,
and that you give their screeching and conspiracy theories an airing
doesn’t mean you have to take them seriously. 

Progressives are
rallying–on blogs, for instance.  The netroots have turned into
a steady drumbeat of support for a health care reform bill that’s
crafted to help the public  instead of increase insurance company
profits. The White House is obviously feeling the heat. They responded by
calling the 77% of Americans who support the choice of a public option
"the left of the left." 
That sort of cowardly whining doesn’t really inspire the public to
rally around you.  In fact, that kind of move convinces the public
that the Democrats are so afraid of upsetting the insurance lobbyists
that they’re beginning to see ordinary Americans, particularly those
who have immediate needs for decent health care, as the enemy. We can’t
rally around behind the President when the President is using passive
aggressive tactics to send out the message that ordinary Americans are
a pain in his neck, with our demands that the government work for us
and actually do something substantive to solve our health care crisis. 

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Can you see what’s wrong
with this picture? The President and Congress practically beg
liberals to rally around and support health care reform, and when we
do by rallying around the public option, we get passive-aggressive articles
in the Washington Post where administration officials suggest we need
to shut up.  Which is it?  Obviously, what the Democrats would
like us to do is rally around the idea of getting a bill passed, any
bill, preferably one that’s weakened enough that it doesn’t threaten
insurance company profits or the Republicans–but the public would
rather rally around a bill that would actually get us health insurance
that we can afford. I imagine that Democrats who are eyeballing bad
bills as "compromise" options and the New York Times would both benefit
if liberals showed up at town halls to get into fist fights with right
wing nuts that gave up any attachment to reality a long time ago. 
The mainstream media would get some exciting footage and articles out
of it, and Democrats could use the craziness to distract from their
strong willingness to scrape anything out of the bill that could help
people.  All the more reason to keep the heat on the Democrats
instead of rallying behind them. 

Progressives aren’t stupid. 
We realize that nasty
pieces of work like Max Baucus were working with conservatives to stall
the bill into the recess

so that it either dies or, worse, the Democrats pass a bill with mandates
without doing anything to make insurance affordable, otherwise known
as the "steal from the poor and give to the fabulously rich during
an economic crisis" plan.  Or, if the President prefers, "bipartisanship,"
where the Democrats hold hands with the Republicans and sing kumbaya
over their willingness to screw the public.  Should they do this,
you better bet you’re going to see the people who got Obama elected
rally once again, but this time to do what they did in 1994–rally
around the concept of staying at home instead of voting for any of these
do-nothing politicians, and thereby dismantling the freshly won Democratic

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