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Pelosi: Health Care Bill a Conservative Bill (Time to Go Back Under the Bus, Veal Pen)

Back into the pen and under the bus with you (photo: ecatoncheires via Flickr)

Just before the House passed the health care bill, Nancy Pelosi sent out a letter.    In it, she said that “An op-ed by E.J. Dionne on Friday reveals that the current health reform legislation pending before Congress was “built on a series of principles that Republicans espoused for years.”  She bolded Dionne’s headline:

Why Democrats Are Fighting for a Republican Health Plan

It’s great that the Speaker of the House is telling people that intellectual credit for the health care bill belongs to the GOP.  But Brad DeLong concurs:

Neither Democrats nor Republicans have an incentive to discuss the Republican roots of Obama’s health-care plan. But that doesn’t mean they’re not real—and deep….The conservative DNA of ObamaCare is hardly a secret. “The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan,” [David] Frum wrote. “It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to ClintonCare in 1993-1994.”

DeLong says the Republicans are so busy demonizing the bill for political advantage that they don’t want to admit it’s essentially the plan the GOP has been putting forward for years. He believes that the political calculus for the Democrats was “Romneycare or nothing”:

But if they pointed out the intellectual origins of the plan—oh, and by the way, the guts of the plan came out of the conservative über-think tank, the Heritage Foundation, and it was what Mitt Romney thought was good policy back in 2004—then the left-wing Democrats’ heads would have exploded and their votes would have vanished.

If it was so politically wise for Democrats to pass an essentially Republican plan, one wonders why Obama never campaigned on it.  Pursuing this logic, Obama rode into office espousing something that was too wacky and “liberal” to ever pass Congress — even though the majority of Americans supported him for it.

I think Armando calls out the laughable notion of this bill being a “progressive victory” most succinctly:

The fact that is is a conservative bill filled with Republican ideas does not make it bad substantively. But it certainly does make it hard to argue it is the greatest progressive achievement since Medicare. Indeed, that has been a long standing point for me – comparing the health bills to Medicare is absurd. Medicare and Obamacare take two fundamentally different paths. Medicare adopted a public insurance based approach and Obamacare took a regulated private health insurance market approach. One is the progressive approach – Medicare. One is a conservative approach – Obamacare. Whatever the merits of the health bills, surely adherence to progressive ideas on health care is not one of them.

It has been both dissociative and bizarre to watch progressive veal pen organizations line up behind this bill, but their support was critical to the party both when it came to invalidating progressive opposition and whipping Congressional Democrats (ironically from the right, while pretending they came from the left). But after they didn’t need them any more, leadership couldn’t wait to start throwing these outfits under the bus, laughing at what chumps they’d all been.  It was just too irresistible.

Right now the veal penners are patting themselves on the back for their pragmatism, their steely eyed realism as they enjoy their moment of unity with the “pack.”   But they are already being mocked by the media for abandoning their principles, for getting hoodwinked into throwing their weight behind a Republican bill, for being suckered by an oh so clever President who kicked their asses in a masterful game of 11 dimensional chess.  They’re ridiculed for participating in their own ritual humiliation — by the very people they thought they were helping.  The Speaker of the fucking House does not release something like this unless she’s chortling uncontrollably at them for thinking  they would now get to be members of the “club.”  As I wrote  the last time it happened, “Nancy Pelosi laughs at progressives — and so should you.”

Armando says:  “Shorter E.J. Dionne – progressives got rolled.”

The health care debate was essentially a fight between political parties, not political philosophies.  And the public understood that (via Scott Payne):

If Bush had tried to pass this bill the entire progressive movement (such as it is) would have squealed like stuck pigs, with the volume and intensity they responded to Bush’s privatization of Social Security. Instead, we’re hearing about the “twilight of the interest groups” and the second coming of Abe Lincoln. It’s no surprise that Pelosi and others are trumpeting the bill’s conservative underpinnings today: now that they no longer need liberal veal pen validators to whip Democrats in order to pass it, they are anxious to insulate themselves from GOP attack by distancing themselves from progressives once again and trumpeting the bill’s Heritage Foundation roots.  The question is why anyone was ever hoodwinked into thinking this was a “progressive” victory simply because the Republicans were against it.  It was a Democratic party victory.

The White House is betting that those who committed themselves to Obama during the campaign won’t be bothered if he triangulates againsth is own campaign rhetoric and passes a right-wing health care bill  — that their commitment to the ideals of the campaign will be trumped by their commitment to him as a personality.  They may well be right.  And the interest groups? Well, have a look at ACORN, because that’s where the dumb ones are headed.  The smart ones (and they know who they are) got their payoffs.

In the end, “progressives” should be honest and admit that they are clapping for a health care plan that most found to be moral anathema when the GOP proposed it in 1994, and that going forward they will settle for nothing from the Democrats.  And like it.

On the Republican side, there is a huge gap between the GOP corporatism of this bill and the libertarian anti-tax critique that the GOP is attempting to harvest with their “stop the mandate” ballot initiative campaign. But since the GOP won’t have to take responsibility for passing this bill, they can exploit it to turn out the vote in November without much fear of anybody noticing.  Democrats will protect themselves by blaming the “liberals” for the bill’s shortcomings, and run to the right — as if they weren’t already there.

Before it’s all over, this thing is gonna make NAFTA look like the Emancipation Proclamation.  And as for NAFTA itself — well, when Bart Stupak tries to repeal it, progressive leading lights will no doubt oppose him on the grounds that the President thinks he’s “icky.”

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of 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.
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