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Who Made Obama Do It?

Hey, remember last year when it seemed like everyone was repeating FDR’s “I agree with you. I want to do it. Now make me do it.” mantra to suggest that despite Obama’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for progressive policies, he simply needed us to push him so he’d have a pretext for doing the right thing?

How’d that work out for us?

Consider: Through the tireless work of Jane and many others, the progressive community got 60+ representatives to pledge to oppose any health care reform bill that did not contain a public option; a bloc that would make such a bill impossible to pass.  That sounds pretty “make me do it,” right?  (Sure, now the progressives are folding like they always do, but Obama could have easily pretended to take them seriously.)

And what happened?  First Obama made no attempt to pressure Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman to vote for cloture – and only cloture – on the public option, nor did he ever press Harry Reid to try to pass it through reconciliation.

Then, when Scott Brown took Teddy Kennedy’s seat and forced reconciliation back onto the table, Obama still made no effort to push for the once-again-attainable public option, and even excluded it from his own sidecar proposal, despite the high probability that it would pass, the progressive PO-Or-Bust pledge, and the new “Public Option Please” letter.

Only when the public option was safely removed from the conversation did Obama and all his supporting organizations unleash all the personal arm-twisting and full-court press that we crazy hippies were supposedly so unrealistic to expect from them last year.

Which makes me wonder what Obama really wanted to do and who he wanted to make him do it.  The progressives who formed a voting bloc that, if it held, would have made it impossible to pass health care reform without thepublic option?  The Liebercrats who threatened to vote against cloture unless the public option was eliminated?  Or the Republicans whose unrelenting obstructionism gave Obama the excuse he needed to cave in on the public option even though they were essentially irrelevant to a reconciliation vote?

When the “make me do it” bar is so much higher for progressives than it is for Republicans and Nelsons and Liebermans, it’s awfully hard to believe that we were the kindred spirits Obama was looking to for help.  In fact, it almost looks as though Obama made some kind of secret deal to ensure that the public option would never see the light of day, but surely that’s crazy talk.

(For a superfun extra-credit assignment, try asking the “Who does Obama want to ‘make me do it’?” question about other progressive policy issues, like financial industry reform, climate change, LGBT rights, immigration, EFCA, civilian trials, etc, and see what you come up with.)

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