Grijalva Hits Baucus and Obama, Remains Firm on Public Option – TPMDC (9/28/09):
In a new op-ed, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus blasts the proposal written by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) saying it’s “all about the insurance industry’s bottom line: no teeth in enforcements and regulations, endless patent hoarding for the pharmaceutical industry and laws that rein in citizens to pay these industries the largest transfer of wealth in history,” and adding that a bill without a public option would be “unacceptable”.
Grijalva even takes a shot at President Obama, saying “he needs to be more direct about what the public option means and what it will do for the American people,” and that he, “must live up to the promises he made about real change and prove that he truly stands for the uninsured and working families that need and demand a public option.”
First, it’s really stunning that someone other than George W. Bush will preside over the largest transfer of wealth in history, and if don’t think requiring that everyone buy shitty insurance subject to recision, cancellation and premium increases is transferring wealth, well, you’re probably a moron. Second, Grijalva gets at one of my key frustrations with Obama generally, and his supporters specifically: communication. This guy was touted as a “once in a generation communicator,” yet has been completely unable (or unwilling) to cut through the bullshit and make a case for the plan that was a prominent plank of his platform. For all of my lifetime plus, the liberals’ lament has been that it’s hard to out-message Republicans because most of their beliefs can fit on bumper stickers and few (if any) of ours could be made into an “elevator pitch.” Yet here we have such a supposedly gifted orator, ostensibly selling water in the desert of health insurance nightmares, and…nothing. The only way this gets complicated is when protecting insurance companies over citizens is the goal. Or of course being such a coward that policy is dictated by what fringe opposition elements will have to say.
The lack of communication, and more importantly, leadership, is a problem whether or not some form of public option is passed. The public option is already a pre-compromise between single-payer on the left and Darwinian jungle law on the right. This has completely distorted the current debate because the left has had to fight for every inch on a policy that is already quite centrist, moving any outcome significantly to the right. While this might be fine for burnishing Obama’s bipartisan fetish, it’s bad policy and won’t appease the vocal psychos. And because Obama hasn’t done any work at all to explain the compromise, the story the lazy-ass press covers is crazy lefties vs crazy righties. The squishy center – Obama’s main constituency – is easily confused and doesn’t like conflict. So Obama wouldn’t fight for what’s right (single-payer), wouldn’t sell the compromise (public option), and didn’t effectively counter the opposition.* In politics, there’s more to it than simply winning or losing. Some battles will be lost, yet provide a good opportunity to make a point, set up an issue for the next election, or simply lay down a marker to signify your principles. Democrats mastered the art of losing badly during the Bush years, and they might well get some practice winning badly under Obama. Though my money is still firmly placed on losing badly.
Why does a back-bencher like Grijalva need to tell Obama to keep his central campaign promise? Why do Obama’s supporters not think this is a problem? And who in the White House or the party thinks that this is good politics?
*Yes, I’ve seen the polls showing that Republicans failed to move public opinion on health care. What this leaves out is that it has moved media coverage, and scared off shaky Dem Senators (whose votes are sorely needed) because they had no leadership and no political cover.