I’ll have a lot more to say about the health care fiasco in the Senate and White House later. A lot of that will be hard. But, reality being real and trying to figure out how to do the most good in available conditions, here is what I think is the most important lesson from this for the left.
In their attacks on Howard Dean when he dared to tell the truth this week, in Barack Obama’s reported threat to congressman DeFazio and in their selling out their strongest supporters to the likes of Joe Lieberman, I’ve learned one important thing about dealing with the Obama administration. You don’t get any respect from them unless you force them to give it.
You have to slander, lie about, vilify, betray, flim flam, campaign against and go back on agreements you have made with the Obama people to even get them to pay attention to you. If you do what Liberman has done they will reward you. I think this might be Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama posing as Chicago hard guys and operators, which is as far in the psychologizing of the situation as I want to go.
We don’t have to know why this is true, but it is clearly true now. No one who isn’t a callow idealist knows that those with the power will have a malign effect on government, as they do in every other part of life. Self-interest is the enemy of the common good. The Obama administration clearly has taken this as the basis of their government, of dealing with the corrupt corporate system as a given. What they don't seem to take seriously, is that it's possible for realistic idealists to play hard too.
According to both Robert Kuttner and Matt Taibbi on last night’s Bill Moyer’s Journal, the majority of Democrats in even the putrid Senate are not corporate sell outs. It’s the monolithic Republican-corporate Democrat coalition that has brought us to this point. It has been the source of the corruption in our system from the start, the prevention and resistance to democracy and the common good. It explains how otherwise good people end up doing rotten stuff. Sometimes it is in otherwise good people attempting to harness the rottenness and turning it to better use. It was, as I recall, Kuttner’s explanation of how Emanuel staffed the House finance committee with corporate tools that made a lot of what is happening under Barney Frank’s leadership of that committee clear. He’s got no choice but to deal with Rahm’s people. When Democrats overlook that someone is a crooked thug in order to take advantage of his skills (as I wrongly thought wise a year ago) we inevitably will come to regret it.
We’ve got three more years of the Obama administration, likely with Rahm Emanuel and other, assorted cynical thugs in place. That’s the situation we face. At this point it’s far from clear exactly what Barack Obama’s intention is, though the image as a cagey chess master seems to have been just advertising. If this is the best that he’s able to do with a majority in the House and Senate, he’s an amateur. If the failure of the Clinton administration on health is any thing to go by, and given Rahm Emanuel’s part in that other fiasco, it likely is, the wrong lessons will be learned again.
But apparently the left in the Democratic Party can’t worry about him, it has to do what it can. The off hand chance that he will have a conversion experience that turns around this disaster would be as unprecedented as the scale of this betrayal. I’m not willing to go out on a limb for him to present the two possible, though apparently improbable, mitigations for his conduct that I’ve thought of. There is no apparent sign of them as of now and I spent my credibility on his account. I'mflat busted in that respect.
So, that leaves the left here in a hard freeze in December 2009. Government is too important for us to give up. We have to get as much as we can eke out of the corrupt dark age we are living through.
Non-corporate Democrats must present a united roadblock to well selected legislation and appointments of this Democratic administration. We are brought to this by the extent of corporate corruption and the Courts that purposely have produced it to prevent democracy.
If the Senators who either actually are or run as liberals made an unalterable demand for a public option I don't think we would be where we are. That might not work now but maybe Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama, after they found he couldn’t intimidate them into submission, would have gone to work on the traitors they bent over backwards to satisfy. And that could have been done in the House as well.* If they can't salvage health care, maybe they can salvage their credibility. That's another account that is in arrears. I'm stunned at how acquiescent the liberals in the Senate have been, Feingold going senatorial and brushing aside the learned condemnation of Lieberman was one of the strongest indications that the Senatorial system is utterly corrupted. Other than Tom Harkin, I'm hearing almost nothing serious about changing the rules of the Senate, on which Barack Obama delivering ANY PART OF HIS CAMPAIGN PLATFORM absolutely depend on. With the veto he's handed the worst of the corporate interests, everything he says that sounds good are words, hollow, cynical, empty, dishonest. And that is an absolute tragedy for the world.
Clearly, you’ve got to force this White House to respect you and you don’t do that by cooperation, they see that as a sign of weakness. Which is stupid but a mistake not unknown in macho guys. If they want to show that’s not how it is, let them make the effort starting now. We've done enough work on this relationship.
* As putrid as the poison pill Stupak amendment was, it’s gone little noticed that the House, under Nancy Pelosi, has actually produced a bill with a weak public option. That is worth noting. In her press conference from Copenhagen the other day she’s reported to have remarked that the Obama administration were going to have to be the ones to find any further money to fund the Afghanistan escalation, she wasn't going to do it. I don’t know if it’s accurate but I think she might have just announced her disgust with them.
If that’s true, she should let The President and Rahm Emanuel know in the strongest possible terms that she’s done with them screwing around with the House and intimidating House members who stand up for the things that Barack Obama campaigned on. She delivered a bill a lot closer to what Barack Obama promised us as recently as September. She’s the third in line of succession for the Presidency, a higher position than the flaccid and useless Harry Reid. She is the most Democratic of the Democrats in power in Washington DC. She and the other representatives of the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party are our best chance to have anything at the end of this. The position for real Democratic leadership in the government is unfilled. If Nancy Pelosi doesn’t step in, someone else must. If they don’t that vacuum will be filled with a traitor and that is the last thing that the left needs again.