Monday, March 22, 2010

LieberCare is Law, But It's Still a Dark Time for Progressives

It passed the House. I wasn't sure it would; I had thought that the Stupak contingent would, perhaps, be willing to risk the wrath of their party in order to curry the anti-abortion vote. But that door was closed when Obama decided to use executive privilege to curry their favor instead.

Honestly, I hope I'm wrong. I hope the critics are wrong. I hope that the bill—as tremendously broken in creation and flawed in execution as it is—ends up serving as the foundation for something that could actually benefit America. I believe that that is still possible, if progressives are vigilant about protecting Americans' interests in the face of the now-clearly-overwhelming influence of the insurance and pharma industries.

I am no longer confident of that, however. I have seen too many self-declared liberals and progressives make the same mistake now that they did in 2002: put the political interests of a party ahead of their own beliefs and America's best interests. I have seen too many people decrying terrible legislation and then, half a year later, supporting the same bill out of personal interests and political expedience. I've seen the collapse of progressive influence in the House, the Senate, and even the Blogosphere, showing that they cannot and will not learn the lesson of their more-successful conservative counterparts.

And I've seen people I used to respect tremendously push the same sort of disingenuous talking-point bullshit that they hated so much when it came from their political opponents.

Is this legislation better than the status quo? Maybe, maybe not. It is a product of the status quo, in almost every way, reflecting every dysfunction that the American political system has to offer. That it even exists is due to the legacy of the hopefulness of 2008, but I don't believe that there's much left of that anymore. What's left might help propel it in a more positive direction.

In the meantime, though, I still believe now what I did last summer: that if a congressman voted for a bill that didn't include a public option, they should be subject to primaries. Progressives ended up looking like absolute tools over the past year, and the only way to fix that is to exert influence that makes a real difference. Many Americans thought the bill didn't go far enough: their voices must be heard, and primaries are the best way to do that. Maybe not this year, since the deadline is past; but in 2012, certainly. It is still possible that progressives can get a little power, develop a credible threat, though it is less likely than it was yesterday or the day before.

In the meantime, though, there is the Senate. I don't even want to think about that.

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