Friday, September 04, 2009

When "yes we can" could become "we thought we could".

Reaching out
“If the president says, ‘Here is what I need in the bill,’ and it doesn’t include the public option, there will be no other way to interpret it than it was a retreat,” added Weiner. “I speak for a lot of members who are allies of the president. We are prepared to take our lumps to get this important policy done. But I don’t like this sense of us charging up the hill, and not only is the president not leading us, but he is not on the hill with us.” Politico

There was a lot of talk last year about how Barack Obama would be a “transformational” president — but true transformation, it turns out, requires a lot more than electing one telegenic leader. Actually turning this country around is going to take years of siege warfare against deeply entrenched interests, defending a deeply dysfunctional political system. Paul Krugman
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As readers of my blog know, I've often been mercilessly skeptical of Barack Obama.

I have long feared that he was merely taking progressives for a ride in order to further his private agenda, in much the same way that Bush took the evangelicals for a ride, simply redirecting their energy and discipline in order to lower taxes for the rich.

Back in November I wrote:
The left is about ideas, about facing reality bravely with full unblinking consciousness. An opportunity for the left to rebuild itself arose in the unlikely shape of George W. Bush and now it is about to be wasted.

Now after lengthy labor pains, with much moaning and groaning, the mountain has given birth to a mouse.

What makes me sad and angry is that the consciousness that has been raised during the Bush years is going to be sanitized and neutered as we tell ourselves another soothing bedtime story about ourselves to ourselves.
When Obama addresses congress next week on public health I'll definitely know if I was right or wrong.

If he comes out strongly for a public option, which is as close as the USA could probably come to a real "national health" program, I will happily eat plate after plate of humble pie with a generous side order of crow.

If he dumps the public option -- which at this moment seems very likely -- I will feel that all my skepticism has been amply vindicated.

Eliminating the public option would be a tragic prevarication; a travesty and a betrayal of all those who have placed their faith in this man and who worked tirelessly to get him elected. They will know they have been used and discarded like a Kleenex in the futile search for a moderate center that no longer exists.

Because, one of the keys to understanding contemporary US politics is that, after Ronald Reagan's revolution (I put no quotes around the word "revolution"), the American center has been destroyed.

As Paul Krugman recently pointed out:

Moderate Republicans, the sort of people with whom one might have been able to negotiate a health care deal, have either been driven out of the party or intimidated into silence. Whom are Democrats supposed to reach out to, when Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who was supposed to be the linchpin of any deal, helped feed the “death panel” lies?
To use a favorite simile of the right, Obama is acting the part of Neville Chamberlain, thinking that he can cut deals with people who take no prisoners...

Obama has often been compared to Ronald Reagan, but except for their phenomenal communication skills, they have little or nothing in common.

Ronald Reagan was first and foremost an ideologue. Behind his amiable, folksy and slightly goofy exterior he was in his own way every bit as firmly entrenched in his extremist ideology as, say, Cambodia's Pol-Pot was in his... and as far removed from reality too.

Ronald Reagan was totally focused on moving the United States politics much farther to the right than its people actually were then, or are even today.

Reagan was able to redefine the parameters of American politics.

Barack Obama gives no sign of such focus or ambition of moving American back to where it was, much less of moving it to the left.

If Obama or anyone else really thinks that a Democratic president can "reach out" to the right and "unite", them behind him on anything, they are somewhere south of naive.

This a time to fight and this is good ground to fight on.

The chance to change American politics on a Reaganesque scale, to become the anti-Reagan, exists in the health care issue. Weakness here will cripple the Obama presidency: For all those that oppose him now or in the future will see the clear discontinuity between the hat and the cattle...

And make no mistake, Barack Obama's deadliest enemies are not in Tehran, the mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan, much less in Beijing or Moscow, they are right there is Washington with him and they will show him no mercy if they are not brought to heel. DS


Anonymous said...

David, you are absolutely correct -- we will know at long last exactly WHO Barak Obama is after his speech next week. I really hope to be joining you in the pie and crow, but I won't be skipping any meals in anticipation of a feast.

Anonymous said...

You might want to look at the last three paragraphs for a couple of typos. :)

RC said...

Hope you did plenty of nothing other than hauling water on your month off.
Yes, showtime is the health speech. I recommend Obama get Hank the Arm Twistin' Negotiator Paulson on his Health Team and have him hold some meetings with the Congress Cretins behind closed doors. Scare them silly somehow about the drastic state of American Health and tell them they need to cough up a couple three trillion Washingtons or flu sickened zombie hoards living in tents will soon line the Potomac. I recommend that Obama give Ol' Hank a cut of whatever he squeezes out of the Honorables since Hank likes that kind of compensation scheme. I think it would be money well spent.
I agree with you that somehow the speech has to go for broke. I also think that Obama has to just move on and completely ignore the opposition, he doesn't them to pass his bills and wasting time being all happy and nice with them is sickening. Screw them and go for just making 51% of the people happy.
In terms of the economic team and their capitulation to capital, Obama lost me months ago. The health thing {I won't be a beneficiary so this is philosophical} is where I get off the bus.
Somehow I am getting the feeling that you will not be eating the humble or the crow. I hope you have been keeping up with Orlov for comic relief and also closely studying The Automatic Earth.

bailey said...

Gore Vidal, he at the crucible, notes Reagan was an employee, a tool, of General Electric and made records/speeches for 20 yrs about the Red Death and Socialized medicare, so no, not much in common. Reagan, having been taxed as much as Vidal in the 50's, immediately turned our 'tax' into 'debt' and voila, here we are today.

No, not much in common and like I've said, Obama resembles a high level/paid consultant, works within the model, consensus driven, he's prolly not going to piss those off those that paid for his fees to begin with.

I know these types; these consultants are good managers but they never deviate from the white paper, they want to keep 'on track'. They're sorta boring and lack imagination

Glad to have you back....we're still cruising the Croatian coast....

Anonymous said...

First we kill the public option, next comes the individual mandate, which is even more dangerous than the public option. Only then will Obamacare be truly dead.