It’s Always The Left’s Fault

If only we’d be nicer:

Obama can’t pass anything that doesn’t have unanimous support in the
Democratic caucus because of the ruthless obstruction and opposition of
the Republican Party. This forces him to govern to the center and make
all his compromises with centrist Democrats and/or the two
still-existing centrist Republicans in the Senate. The Republican
obstruction empowers people like Joe Lieberman. It actually gives veto
power to every single senator, but the only way to make up for a
defecting Democrat is to win over Olympia Snowe or Susan Collins. So,
if Bernie Sanders or Roland Burris revolt, he has to move the bill
further to the right in response.

The left is immensely frustrated with this situation and inclined to
blame the administration, but this is a simple logic tree. Obama cannot
push the progressive position on pretty much anything if the centrists
refuse to go along. Compounding the problem, progressives don’t really
know how to influence centrists. They tend to insult them, call them
whores, attack their families, and generally question their morals.
Over time, this sets up the situation we saw with Lieberman where heswitched positions
on a Medicare buy-in proposal simply because the measure was pleasing
to people who have been demonizing him for over three years. Rather
than persuade the Ben Nelsons and Blanche Lincolns of the Senate,
progressive tactics make them even more inclined to reject anything
they perceive to be coming from the left.

It’s quite possible that the health care bill we’re looking at right
now is worse than it would have been if ads and insults weren’t hurled
at the people who have control over what will be in the bill. It
reminds me of the campaign against General David Petraeus. Rather than
educating the public about what was anticipated to be misleading
testimony before Congress, would up being censored by
Congress, and the anti-war movement never recovered. That didn’t mean
that MoveOn was wrong on the merits, only that they had a tin-ear and
pursued self-defeating strategies.

But, if I have learned anything in my years of political activism, it’s
that the left will act like the left, the right will act like the
right, and that this is something it is foolish to ignore. You can’t
plead, beg, or reason with people who are just wired to act the way
they do.

Look, I don’t necessarily disagree about the political realities of Congress, but I take a different lesson than Booman does from the dynamics described above. Let’s break this down:

Compounding the problem, progressives don’t really
know how to influence centrists. They tend to insult them, call them
whores, attack their families, and generally question their morals.

What you have, in Joe Lieberman, is a man willing to let people die so he can maintain his power. How else do you explain his statements of self-congratulation after he scuttled the Medicare buy-in last week? What you have, in Bart Stupak and Ben Nelson, are men willing to let people die to promote their saintliness on the important moral issue of how some women are sluts. How else do you explain their insistence that only rich girls be allowed to have abortions, since those rich girls can pay for their own?

They don’t favor an incremental approach to health care reform, for example, a longer time-period of phasing in improvements, or more or less government control over this or that particular of the bureaucracy that will oversee and maintain the health care system. They don’t want to find solutions to the problems facing uninsured and even insured Americans. They want to score points about peripheral bullshit. They want to settle scores. They want to hear their own voices on the evening news.

They’re not centrists. They’re monsters. Whore is actually too kind a word for them.

And these people aren’t empowered by Republican obstructionists, who anyway are too busy out on the lawn singing along with teabaggers who hold up pictures of Obama with a bone through his nose. These people are empowered by a bitchy political media eager to hold them up and pet them for bucking their own party. Do you think Joe Lieberman would be in the position he’s in, or even still IN the Senate, were he not being propped up by pundits who need an example of someone who believes in nothing so those same pundits can sleep at night? The tenor of the story is always that poor principled Joey (or Ben, or Bart, or whoever) is being unfairly attacked by those mean hippies because the mean hippies are mean, and hippies, and stupid, and not grown-ups, and don’t understand.

So you’re Joey, or Ben, or Bart, and you’re watching the news and all you’re seeing is that you’re right, you’re right, you’re right. Is that giving you any incentive to compromise at all? Fuck no. You’re gonna be ever more convinced that a) you’re right and the hippies are stupid and mean and b) you’re the story, and what really matters here is your personal vindication, and not the bill, or the people it would help, or the future of the American economy because that’s actually a real thing that’s going on.

So forget the hippies. This isn’t about the hippies being mean and running General Betray-us ads. This is about the political conversation beingso fucked up that it doesn’t matter anymore that you are right, it only matters HOW you’re right, and the right way to be right changes on the hour, based on whether Howard Fineman’s toupee has changed from winter to summer and if your codpiece catches Tweety’s fancy. Forgive us our sins if, after eight years of this shit, we start getting a little annoyed and say “blow job” on the news.

I’m not saying this as someone who thinks we should burn health care reform all down and start over, by the way. I do tend to look at this bill and say let’s take what we can get now and fight, fight, fight to make it better through various pieces of legislation and whatever executive orders we can pressure Obama to sign, because that’s how it works in the NBA. But that doesn’t mean that I will for a second pretend that this is the case:

It’s quite possible that the health care bill we’re looking at right
now is worse than it would have been if ads and insults weren’t hurled
at the people who have control over what will be in the bill.

No. Just … no. We don’t get to hide under our beds and flagellate ourselves over what WE could have done better, for the very simple reason thatain’t nobody on a progressive blog cashing fat checks from Aetna while demonizing poor women on national TV and then going home to prime rib. I realize that some hippie somewhere maybe said something dumb to Joey’s wife, but I’m saying that it does in fact matter who is right and who is wrong on this. We can argue all day long about the merits of this versus that tactic but you cannot sit there and tell me some girl with a web site drowned this whole thing.

Because if that really is the case, and if the bill really does suck because we weren’t nice enough, then that means UNITED STATES SENATORS would rather let Americans die than allow themselves be insulted on the Internet.And I’m sorry, I will put up with a lot of shit from this world for the good stuff in it, but I cannot live in a world where that is the case.

We heard this over and over during the run-up to the war, and in the aftermath of 9/11, after the 2004 election and gay marriage bans, and during every important fight of the past decade: If only the people who cared about the outcome of the debate most would shut the fuck up and calm down and not be so unforgivably and uncouthlyinvested in it, things would be fine. Stop giving right-wingers ammunition. Stop giving them excuses. Stop protesting. Stop running ads. Stop being loud. Stop embarrassingme the good little progressive who’s doing it right.

As if there was anything MoveOn or Code Pink or Cindy Sheehan or for that matter Jane Hamsher (though I do think equating progressives opposed to the Senate bill, and teabaggers opposed to … stuff, is nonsense) could ever do that was worse than the nicest thing Dick Cheney had ever done. As if those attacking progressives would EVER lack a convenient scapegoat. As if those attacking progressives would ever even NEED a scapegoat at all when they had some papier maché and baling wire around. As if those attacking progressives would ever NOT be able to twist the political punditry into covering the debate the way it’s always been covered, as one between nice normal folks and nutters with puppets. And as if those attacking progressives would then be unable to get other progressives to push the notion that the way something is covered —passionate debate quelle horreur! — is the way something really is.

I realize Booman is talking optics, but what I’m saying is that at some point we HAVE to talk outcomes instead, because in the end the outcomes are the optics. And the potential outcomes were these: Progressives get what they want, and everybody in America gets health care they can afford. Joey and Ben and Bart get what they wanted, and they get rich and famous, and fuck the rest of us. No contest.



11 thoughts on “It’s Always The Left’s Fault

  1. Great analysis, A. All you left out is that it isn’t the progressives who are hurling asinine insults at their opposition, it is the conservatives who called us traitors for opposing the Iraq invasion, who call us heathens for opposing the fundamentalists attempt to take over the government, who call us baby killers for wanting women to make their own medical decisions, and who accuse us of wanting to commit genocide on seniors for wanting them to be able to use end of life counseling. Are we supposed to now oppose anything of benefit to the nation just to get revenge for those insults? If so, we need to revise our script.

  2. …I admit to being somewhat sympathetic to Booman’s argument, but my view is that he doesn’t actually get all the way down to the nut of the issue. The failure to achieve a truly progressive outcome isn’t directly a product of hurling DFH invective against Members of Congress or their spouses, thereby pissing them off. The behavior we’ve seen by Lieberman, Nelson, Lincoln, or Mary Landrieu (don’t forget Mary, now) isn’t a result of any of us saying they are ‘whores’ or ‘monsters’, but is rather the result of them not being afraid of us or of the Democratic leadership…
    As things now stand, none of these Senators owe any measure of their ability to effectively deliver the bacon (and keeping their meal tickets punched) to either progressive voters or a pre-chordate Democratic leadership that refuses to play hardball with its caucus members when it comes time to move legislation…
    This bill sucks because the people who made it suck have nothing to fear from either our little potty mouths or the “leadership” of the party…

  3. It’s a big problem when elected officials are so timid that they will NEVER do anything to upset the conventional wisdom and the conventional wisdom is set by mewling idiots in the press that don’t give a fig about facts or context. I don’t know how you crack that nut but it has very little to do with smacking hippies or 60 votes. I think back to Russ Feingold being 1 of a 100 Sentors to vote against the Patriot Act when it clearly gutted so much of the 4th Amendment. If you multiply his courage 4000% you still only get to 40 votes. We are a weak country when it comes to putting quality people in office. As a nation we’ve fallen in love with bullshiters.
    And that’s before we get to the batshit insane GOP!

  4. The right has shown repeatedly that they’ll gladly move the goalposts of what’s considered “left” to just outside the gates John Birch Society, as well. If the DFHs were less left or hidden under rocks out of sight of the “centrists” the right would just attack someone like John Kerry or Barack Obama as a socialist and a traitor to the country. Oh, wait, they already did that.

  5. For the record, I used the phrase “blow job” on teevee not out of frustration generally, but because I thought it the best way to show how insignificant the act of consensual fellatio is compared to the deliberate use of torture. Next time I’ll try the phrase, “Clinton stuck his penis in Monica’s mouth,” rather than blow job, because Howard Kurtz told me I should have used a “euphemism.”
    But as to the rest of the post, right on the money.

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