The Public Option and the Unenthusiastic Left
I watch as political talk show hosts ask Democratic operatives about the fabled enthusiasm gap and the depressed democratic base. The standard pat answer is most of the base don’t realize the universal republican opposition the President faced with his agenda and yet democrats were still able to accomplish a great deal, but were not able to get every little thing their base wanted.
Of course, this is a dodge, a non-answer answer. The reason they never answer the question correctly, or if they do it is framed to make it appear that the base cannot count to 60.
I will answer all pundits questions in the most blunt, stark terms possible, to perhaps give some understanding to the mind of the progressive base. Don’t get me wrong, I think Jane Hamsher has done a masterful job of highlighting this issue, but I plan to rip the meat from the bone.
Early in the process Jane pointed out that the public option had already been traded away, and yet President Obama assured everyone that he was still in favor of it, as he campaigned on it as a bedrock principle in health care reform.
Progressives went to work to see the President’s dream realized of a public option being included in health reform. See, as a default position, progressives see health insurance companies as increasing profits by denying health care–it is a money in, money out thing. For profit health insurance is no good. We can regulate and legislate all we want but the business model itself is incompatible with human health.
So a government health insurance program, a baseline competitor as it were, was the only honest way to hold people in the health insurance industry accountable.
Progressives kicked ass and took names during the legislative process. Since 70% of the American people approved of the public option, we thought it would be a good thing to pursue legislation that was both wildly popular and fiscally responsible.
We did head counts. Three or four Democratic Senators refused to budge on the public option and threatened to join republicans on a filibuster if the public option was offered.
But, through legislative alchemy, a Senate procedure called reconciliation was going to be used to fix the Senate version to match the House version. Now this is a long way around to get to the point that the public option was available without reaching the 60 vote filibuster proof margin.
Senator Straddle, Blanche Lincoln D-WalMart, who both endorsed and opposed the public option, or Joe Lieberman, who is a tool, or Baucus could not have stopped the public option. So here it was, hanging right in the middle of the plate, completely achievable using anyones math.
Health reform had passed. It was a done deal. There was no risk whatsoever to the health care bill by including the public option at this point. They were merely passing "fixes" to the law they passed already.
So now we come to it. Jane had been telling me Obama traded off the public option long ago to American Health Insurance providers for campaign contributions. President Obama had ben declaring he favored the public option. So when the "fixes" hit the Senate floor, the public option was not in it.
The President and every Democratic Senator had decided they would rather have the support of AHIP and Phrma than the most dedicated supporters of the Democratic party and elected to toss the base overboard. It wasn’t like amendments could not be offered. Tom Coburn R-OK tried to add an amendment to prevent convicted sexual predators from purchasing Viagra with federal funds.
The Democrats voted against that amendment. Seems they would rather fund dick dope for rapists than provide Americans with a public option.
So the next time some stupid pundit puts his toe in the sand and says "Gee whiz, what’s wrong with them libruls?" Or the next time some politician says "buck up," or "stop whining" it needs to be pointed out that they decided, with a vote, they needed the help from the corporations that have royally fucked up our health care system to get re-elected way more than they needed ours.
They’re just not that into us. Lay with dogs, you get fleas. Tell me why I should vote for a fucking fleabag.