A friend sends this along.  It’s from someone who works in the progressive caucus, in response to this piece:

don’t really like firedog lake. time and time again they have demonstrated a profound lack of knowledge about politics. they always have these campaigns to have people call and demand progressives (barbara lee, woolsey and others) to do this and that, when we’re the ones who are already leading that fight. they don’t know what the heck is going on up here and as a result precious time and resources are diverted.
 
specifically, i think this assessment is way off base. i was there when pelosi made those comments. what she was saying is that progressives want health reform and don’t want to kill it. that said, i don’t think progressive are willing to vote against an imperfect bill if said bill reduces the number of uninsured. additionally, politically speaking we have limited leverage, because we know if the president loses this one, we lose and any hope of meaningful progressive legislation will be thwarted for the rest of this term.
 
our (progressives) best leverage at this point to to make as much noise as possible to limit the march to the right to weaken health reform. single payer is not going to happen and it was never going to happen. that’s just a reality. i don’t think jane hamsher gets that.
 
our other best play is to rally the african american communities in these blue dog districts. many of these guys would not be able to win without black voters, yet they don’t consistently vote in the best interests of african americans. in some cases we’re talking about populations of 20 to 48 percent black represented by some of the most conservative blue dogs.

I don’t know who wrote it, but there are many things here that I find revealing.  While you can’t hold the whole progressive caucus responsible for this letter, I do think that it represents what many of them are thinking.

Number one, they think that the progressive caucus is doing a good job, and we shouldn’t be asking anything of them.  After the debacle of the Waxman/Markey Bill, their complete failure to make good on their threat to stop the health care bill going forward if it did not met their demands shows why nobody takes them seriously.  Yes, they are our champions on progressive issues.  It seems to have escaped their notice that they are losing.

But this is the big takeaway:

i don’t think progressive are willing to vote against an imperfect bill if said bill reduces the number of uninsured. additionally, politically speaking we have limited leverage, because we know if the president loses this one, we lose and any hope of meaningful progressive legislation will be thwarted for the rest of this term.

As we’ve known from the start, progressive members of Congress do not want to hold out for a bill with a strong public option because they believe they need to pass something or there will be a political cost.  Remember Jan Schakowsky’s quote after she led the capitulation on the war supplemental:

In the end, 19 House Democrats backed the bill who had opposed it the first time, although some cited loyalty, not agreement with Obama’s plans, as their reason.

"I want to support my president," said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who changed her no vote to a yes.

In spite of the fact that Obama campaigned on having a public plan, Democrats have majorities in both the House and the Senate, and 76% of the public and 58% of Republicans want one,  progressive members of the House believe that they will have their arms twisted by the White House to capitulate and pass an insurance industry bail-out.  So that they won’t be thwarted in their attempts to pass "meaningful progressive legislation" in the future.  As if the same dynamic will not repeat itself over and over again.

There has been no pressure from the White House on Blue Dogs.  As the memo says, there could be tremendous pressure brought to bear with the African American constituents of someone like John Barrow, who was one of the Blue Dog obstructionists on the Energy & Commerce Committee.  African Americans have cast 70% of the ballots in past Democratic primaries in the district.  

Obama cut an ad for Barrow in 2008, when Barrow was running against African American State Senator Regina Thomas.  Barrow blew her out of the water.  There is nothing on heaven or earth that progressive activists could do in these districts that could trump what Obama himself could do.

If the White House wanted to move John Barrow or Jim Cooper (in whose district African Americans represent 43% of Democrats), they certainly have tremendous leverage.  Barrow and Cooper have been two of the biggest obstructionists to health care reform in the House.   That’s not happening. Instead, Rahm "triggers" Emanuel is beating up progressives once again and telling them to toe corporate-friendly line. 

Progressives know they will be asked to "support the President" and vote for a weak bill:

Ultimately, Hirono said she was a progressive who firmly believes in the public option, but that she was also someone who counted votes and that the White House would be pressuring them to make a deal.

The only chance we have to stop this continuing travesty on every single issue that comes before Congress is to strengthen the resolve of the progressive caucus by making sure people in their districts know exactly what is happening.  Sure they’ll fight hard for progressive legislation, but they leave the back door open to sell it out when the time comes. Which they always do.  They are actors in a grand kabuki, accustomed to "fighting the good fight" and addicted to losing.

As for the analysis that I’m member of the "single payer or die" club, I’ll let the laughter erupting in the comments speak for itself.

Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
Subscribe in a reader

21 Comments