Sunday, December 20, 2009

Just To Reiterate a Point

(Edit: Fixed the comedy spelling in the title.)

I was reading Ezra's "hostage-taking" piece, and I wanted to clarify something.

The problem with the Democrats' and press' response to Dean is not that they disagree. That's fine. I'm actually with Krugman, Ezra, Yglesias et al in believing that the discussion is a good thing, and I will acknowledge that there have been improvements in Reid's manager's amendment. If FireDogLake can, then I would be remiss in not doing the same.

(That doesn't change the basic problems with the bill, or that it will be a disaster to campaign on, but there have been improvements. It is simply that there must be more.)

The problem is the nature of the response to Dean. The "centrists" and New Democrats have quite literally gone insane. They always hated Dean, not least for having saved them from their own exclusionary, base-hating instincts in 2006. I'm absolutely positive that Rahm's pettiness had everything to do with Dean finding himself on the outside looking in.

They don't hate Dean personally, though. They hate him for what he represents. They hate that he gives "official cover" to all those smelly DFHs out there, and forces the "nutroots" into the dialogue and into the public's eye. Even if the press does not understand why there is such anger over this bill from progressives and liberals, they do recognize that it exists. And by this existence, it completely changes the Overton window of acceptable debate on this issue.

In fact, if you look at all this through that prism, the Dean pushback has been fantastically successful. The meaningful discussion over the past week has been between progressives and the bill's defenders like Krugman, Klein and Yglesias. Before, those three would be described as the hard-case far-lefties, and the debate would be juxtaposed between the horribly flawed bill that they're advocating and the madness of the teabaggers.

Now, though, those same people find themselves on the right of the debate. As powerful as the teabaggers have been in setting the debate, they really do find themselves in a very different position. They are still inside the Window, but it has expanded to the left so far that their old opponents are almost on the same side as them. Both are defending private health care, both are defending profiteering, and both are opposed to a public option as a necessary component to real health care reform. Both are defending the status quo of the robber-baron insurers; it's just simply to a greater or lesser extent.

(Progressives don't want the status quo. They want something better. They just believe that this system would make things worse.)

The fact that you're seeing Jane Hamsher on television has a lot to do with Dean. He made it possible. He stretched the window. He expanded the discourse. He gave the "DFH" crew a bit of space to work in. They're already changing things.

And, boy oh boy, do Rahm's boys HATE him for it.

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