Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Big Picture: Why I'm still VERY concerned

The Strike makes good points on the substantive merits, but it is the political implications and symbolic meaning of the White House giveaway today that trouble me so deeply. The White House didn't give in on the public option in exchange for something else like a strong exchange, or even a promise of votes from centrist Democrats. As far as I can tell, it was just a straight unilateral surrender, and whatever the intentions, it basically demonstrates that the White House will cower and shrivel when the pressure gets tough. And why did they have to do it now, when votes won't be taken for weeks, and just when it seemed that Obama had started gaining some traction in pushing back with his town halls? The consequences will be a a sense of triumph for the Right-Wing Forces of Evil that will spur them to attack harder and more passionately, that will rally them to go for the kill. Giving this away now just handed the Evil Forces a ton of momentum. For those of us on the left, who the White House desperately needs to be far far more involved, this is a slap in the face. I feel so deflated, not just by WHAT we gave away, but even more by WHEN we did it. There was an article on the front page of the Times yesterday about how the Obama grassroots army has not been nearly as involved as was hoped. And after this? This signal that even though the President spent months and years saying the public option was critical for health care reform, he'll just surrender on it?

And most devastating will be the consequences for the center. If you were a centrist Democrat trying to read which way the wind is blowing, should I stick with Obama because he'll bounce back, or should I jump ship - after this I would realize two things: this is clear confirmation that the Right has seized the upper hand, and that I better not stick my neck out for Obama and support anything because he'll just abandon and let me twist in the wind forced to defend a vote for something even the liberal President is implying is too liberal. To sum it up, do you think today's move makes it more likely that the critical centrist Democrats are going to sense that it's in their best interest to ignore the town hall cacophony and vote for reform? NO WAY.

Finally, think about what this says about the current political situation: if the Right makes up enough insane lies and yells loud enough, they can force the President to abandon what he defined as a central element of the most important item of agenda, an element that polls show was supported by 75% of the country. What happens with Obama's less sweepingly popular proposals? How will they survive the "socialist" chants and the vicious lies? I just don't see where Obama goes from here. I don't like the trajectory of health care reform or indeed his entire agenda.

Hopefully the Strike can cheer me up.

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