Monday, September 21, 2009

Sekoff v. Simmons on the Ed Show last night

The fight over the public option has forced the Democrats to show their true colors. It has become easy to distinguish principled progressives fighting for a fairer economy from corporate Democrats eager for more campaign contributions from corporations and the wealthy. This has been true not only for Democrats in Congress and the President (we know where he and Rahm stand), but also for liberal advocacy groups and media figures. The Ed Show last night demonstrated this difference so clearly in a transition between two segments.

In the first, Ed spoke with Roy Sekoff from Huffington Post. Sekoff criticized the President for caving on the public option and favoring the Baucus bill. He urged Obama to forget about the Republicans and "bring out the brass knuckles" on conservatives in his own party, pointing out that the President sure wasn't afraid to tell Gov. Paterson to go. Finally he raised the excellent point that if we pass weak reform that is ineffectual and costly it will only make more people think that government can't solve problems. As I wrote here, a bill that takes the mandates-and-subsidies approach without a public option won't cover everyone, won't bring down costs, and thus won't be sustainable long-term, leading to Sekoff's scenario.

The segment that followed was a discussion by 3 media figures on a couple issues (see transcript here). One of the figures was Jamal Simmons, a "Democratic consultant." Ed asks Simmons if a public option trigger would be acceptable, and Simmons gives an unequivocal yes. Simmons says, "It's competition. It's affordability." Isn't that what the public option brings? Simmons thinks we should "give the private market a chance." Wait, this guy is a Democratic consultant? Last I heard the private insurance market led to health care costs twice as high as other industrialized countries and left tens of millions without coverage. It's enough of a compromise that the Democrats are allowing the insurance companies to continue to exist.

Simmons is deeply concerned about Democratic seats in red states. He thinks a failure to pass health care reform will cause those Dems, many of them Blue Dogs, to lose their seats. However, polls in a couple of these states show that a plurality of swing staters favor the public option, as a plurality of Americans do. The right-wingers are going to call health care reform a government take-over, public option or no, so they'll lambast conservative Dems who vote for legislation either way. Why not push the Blue Dogs to play ball and get a decent bill instead of a shite one that is a handout to insurance industry?

Simmons is one of these tepid liberals who thinks that the Democrats need to pass something, anything to avoid the debacle of 1994 in which the Republicans gained a stranglehold on Congress after the failure of health care reform. Phoenix Woman points out at Firedoglake that the losses of 1994 had as much to do with the demoralization of the Democratic base after NAFTA as failure on health care reform. Progressives aren't excited to get out and vote for Democrats if the Democrats fail to pass meaningful reforms. If Democrats can't pass health care reform this time because conservative Democrats oppose the public option, they can blame it on the Republicans and do just fine in 2010 because their base will still be with them. I wouldn't be too concerned if some of the Blue Dogs lost their primaries along the way.

It's become clear that the 1994 argument is code-speak for concern that progressive reforms will stem the flow of corporate campaign contributions to Democratic coffers. The reason why Blue Dogs and members of the Democratic Leadership Council are so coveted by Democratic party leaders is because they are the most successful at raking in contributions from the insurance companies, coal companies, and the like. But the problem is more than the Blue Dogs. It pervades the party's power structure. We continue to have these DLCers and moderates running the show: Clinton, Obama, Reid, Hoyer, Emanuel, etc. etc. The face of the Democratic party is consultants like Simmons instead of the middle class Americans that supply most of the votes.

I look at the differences between Democrats and Republicans, and wish that the Democrats' base acted more like the Republicans' base. The right wing demands that Republicans pay homage to them and be uncompromising with the left. Obviously this has hurt their party lately as the Republicans associate themselves more and more with the birthers, bigots, and anti-science crowd. However, I don't think the same would happen for the Democrats because progressives aren't so nutty. If the Democrats had a strong base that forced the Democrats to the left, what would the opposition say? That the Democrats are moving us to socialism. Only the Republicans' base will buy that crap, especially as the country's demographics change. In addition, a more progressive Democratic party would pass stronger reform legislation that could show more Americans that government can do things well, and that it should.

I'm tired of listening to "consultants" say why the Democrats should cave to monied interest again and again. I'm tired of liberal advocacy groups saying that we need to "support the President." What's the point in electing Democrats if they never pass real reform? Down with the consultants, up with the base!

No comments:

Post a Comment