Monday, August 24, 2009

The Daily Strike-8/24/09-A Clarification and a Dialogue

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. The big news is today is that Attorney General Eric Holder is appointing a special prosecutor to investigate CIA interrogation abuses. The interrogators themselves are immune from investigation (despite what this numbskull says) nor will it investigate the lawyers like Jay Bybee and John Yoo. It's more a chance for each political party to do some posturing. So we'll leave a discussion of that decision to other blogs.

CLARIFICATION: One argument I've been hearing from conservatives and town hall protesters is that health care reform is "unconstitutional." This may sound like a catchy criticism, but it makes absolutely no sense. The rationale for this view, according to these people, is that there is nothing in the constitution that specifically gives the government the authority to provide health care. For one, if health care reform were unconstitutional, Medicare would have been struck down 44 years ago, the day it was signed. That's government-run, government administered health care. Oh yeah, and there would be no Social Security either. Or public education. Or intelligence community. The founding fathers knew that Congress would need to act on problems not foreseeable in the 18th Century. That's why they put "protect the general welfare" in the preamble, and the "necessary and proper" clause in Article 1. There are those, like Ron Paul, who really believe that almost everything Congress does is unconstitutional because it's not something directly authorized by the constitution. But most people making that argument haven't quite taken it to its logical conclusion.

DIALOGUE: The Big Picture and I today talked about why some of the health care lies (death panels etc.) have become so salient. Here's our dialogue from earlier today:

The Big Picture: You know what's crazy though, and demands some analysis - that a bunch of made-up stuff about health care resonates so strongly, even though it's completely untrue and just so bizarre and counter intuitive, while Rev. Wright is not an issue, even though that really was Obama's spiritual guide, the officiator at his wedding, the environment he came out of, saying extremely radical things, for decades. I think that contrast is so strange on its surface. But you look into it, and you realize 3 things: 1. very powerful corporate interests weren't actually threatened by Jeremiah Wright, but they are by health care reform, 2. ultimately Rev. Wright wasn't threatening their status, threatening their sense of security, in the way that health care reform supposedly would, 3. (the lesson from this) Obama confronted it head-on, elevated the debate, put it in context, spoke from the heart and really connected. Might be a good idea.
But still, it's a strange contrast. Last year we thought that maybe the Rev. Wright stuff just wouldn't work for the Republicans because the country had changed, that kind of demagoguery just didn't play anymore, would turn off more people than it would bring in. But these attacks are even more wild and unfair than the GOP Trust ads just playing his speeches. I guess that signifies we're in a period of churn, hopefully this is some death throes of the Lost Period and it will prove to be the exception. I'm concerned though that the lack of exploitation of Rev. Wright will prove to be the exception.

The Strike:
That’s an interesting point you bring up about Wright. I think the two big reasons it didn’t resonate that much (and remember it was a BIG thing for awhile, certainly cost him some late primaries) is that it didn’t directly effect people’s lives. There was no perception that anything Wright said would take something away from them. That’s what they think about health care. Also, as you said, Obama took on the issue immediately and helped neutralize it. I’m, I think, slightly more skeptical than you about the power of corporate interests. I obviously know that they do have a lot of power, and can help control the terms of debate, but if you listen to what the town hall people say, it doesn’t sound anything like talking points from big business. Maybe their influence extends to the opinion-makers, I guess.

The Big Picture:
That is a good point. But I think the general corporatist mindset just so permeates the public discussion, it's so insidious, it underlies everything. Really its biggest effect is in creating the conditions in which we hold this debate - the current problems with the health care system, the proposed solutions, why they're so difficult to enact, why the problems are so difficult to begin with, why it costs so much, where we get the money for it, the kind of people who are in Congress dealing with it (or not) - all that is so critically influenced by corporate money, corporate interests, and of course all the people who work for these corporations and their families. The power of right-wing libertarian ideology is also directly tied to corporate money, corporate interests. Even going back to my thesis - clearly the racial anxieties actually existed, but they were translated into a powerful movement only by the California Real Estate Association, who pounded home all the conservative slogans, helped change people's minds about government in general. If the balance of power between corporations and unions/public interest organizations was shifted, the effect permeates everything.

That's it for tonight, folks. See you tomorrow! Leave comments!

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