A thirst for diagnosis

You know, I don't recall hardly anything coming out of the Republicans, after they lost total power in 2006-2008, in terms of wailing and gnashing of teeth-- a reflection and revamping. I guess we just expected them to go to the wilderness, like the Democrats have, after such a decimation. They seemed to have just bounced right back, with no remorse, of having been so wrong for so long. Without a doubt, its helped that a side attraction, the Tea Party, was developed to agitate, and from which to fold back into voting for the GOP come November.

But with Democrats (not even having lost yet), the analysis on our side is moree griping than anything I hardly ever see about "what to do" going forward. Lots of how the strategy failed, but little on the tactics to embrace.

Anyway, that while I was reading this Dan Gerstein (I know, I know) article, and this John Neffinger article, on losing. I'm convinced we already lost and that this is Lakoffian genius at work in diagnosing just how it happened. John Cole explains it thusly:

Right-wingers spend their whole lives seething with incomprehensible rage.

Left-wingers spend their entirely lives butthurt.

Discuss. This observation explains pretty much everything you need to know about the blogosphere.

Rage has no reflection, and butthurt lasts a lifetime.

OK, on HCR, as it appears we will see something passed (and praised for at least being passed), is too late to matter (ie being a positive)?

I remember being at a political conference in 2006, after the Iraq surge, and there were Republicans there in the session I was at, arguing that if the surge worked, Bush and the Republicans would be recused of their previous fiasco. No, I argued, the opinion is set, its done, even if it does "work" politically. And so it turned out.

Conservative Peggy Noonan argues this same sort of equation is at work with HCR and Obama, saying Republicans...

...believe the bill is not worth saving, that at this point no matter what it contains—and at this point most people can no longer retain in their heads what it contains—it has been fatally tainted by the past year of mistakes and inadequacies.

The CW's CW (its even titled "political pulse"), Bill Schneider, argues similarly:

If the Democrats pass health care reform on a partisan vote, a political firestorm will likely ensue. Congress would be defying public opinion. President Obama said at last week's health care summit, "I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions, and then that's what elections are for." That's also what makes Democrats in Congress very nervous.

If they pass the bill, Democrats have to hope that the firestorm passes and people discover they are better off. But expanded health insurance coverage will take years to kick in. At the same time, higher taxes are also likely to be some years down the road. The battle over health care reform could go all the way to the polls in November, with politicians still arguing over principles rather than experiences.

I do like Obama's thirst for the electioneering. Big questions for the election to decide. Is it a net-negative to have passed something rather than nothing, even if few like the outcome?  Is HCR, the vote, as the issue, for 2010's mid-term?  Or, can't Democrats pivot to another issue before then to broaden the debate?

Many think that's the economy, but I'd argue that the emerging Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill on energy solutions seems to have the biggest potential to shift the terrain in the coming months.  Its a big deal, if we have passed a bill that could dramatically enhance the energy indepenence and environmental concerns, for the 2010 political environment. I've long argued that the "all of the above" perspective on energy is the way to go-- what the public supports is and that's what is politically feasible. There is still a long way to go for this to become law, but it does seem to be coming together in a way that Cap-and-Trade would never have done.

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I still think passing HCR is a winner

People know this is the right thing to do.  In a sense, the "Overton Window" (if you believe in such things) has already shifted on it.  From the Republican perspective, it went from "HCR is dead" in January, to "Start Over" in February, to "No Fair!!" in March.  I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility that you'd get a few Republicans to vote for it in the end a la the jobs bill.

The energy bill seems harder.  Just as a practical matter, the timing is pretty bad.  At the most mundane level, it has been a cold winter on the East Coast and that has emboldened the Global Warming skeptics.  The "climate-gate" email thing only adds to that.  I think unless they can sell this for what it will ultimately be - an energy-security and diversification bill - and not as a Global Warming-combatting bill, then it will not pass.  I think there's a lot of hay to be made bringing up two salient points about the energy bill 1) jobs, jobs, jobs; 2) fossil fuel pollution leads to smog, mercury and lead emissions, PCB pollution, acid rain, among others.

by the mollusk 2010-03-05 11:54AM | 0 recs
RE: I still think passing HCR is a winner

Fossil fuels are also expensive, once the recovery get's underway I expect crude prices to jump back to $100 a barrel again. And new drilling is not exactly cheap - most of the new reserves are hard to tap.

by vecky 2010-03-05 02:13PM | 0 recs
RE: I still think passing HCR is a winner

I saw a prominent Geophysicist give a talk about a year ago looking into the "peak oil" situation.  I'm not sure how much of this I buy at the moment, but he made a pretty strong case that we have passed peak oil and that it's all down hill from here.  The main point of his presentation is that there just isn't enough oil (or coal) for us to double atmospheric CO2 concentrations again and that the IPCC should take this into account in their assessment of future climate.  If that is really true, it makes sea-level rise look like child's play.  The modern economy is not equipped to handle a massive shortage in fossil fuels.

by the mollusk 2010-03-05 02:45PM | 0 recs
RE: I still think passing HCR is a winner

Well, 2 things - new reserves are being constantly found - however these reserves are harder and more inaccessible than current. Secondly, reserves per capita have been declining since the 80s.

According to EIA we currently have 130 years supply of coal, which is not much considering our country has been around 230 years. Hell, the civil war was 120 years ago. I guess it's possible we will run out of fossil fuels at about the same time we do irreversible harm to our natural environment. It would only be fitting.

by vecky 2010-03-05 04:24PM | 0 recs

All of the above?

How would ANWR, shale gas, or off-shore drilling going to help with climate change? Nukes I hear ya, hells yeah, but drilling?

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-05 11:59AM | 0 recs
RE: Energy

Depends on what it gets us to a bill is a short answer. ANWR, no, said Lieberman (good). Off-shore drilling-- probably, if the state wants it (middle ground). Shale gas-- not sure, probably has too much opposition (rightly so)?

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-05 12:14PM | 0 recs
RE: Energy

Getting to a bill is usually my own MO, and I'm that way on health care, but we don't have time for a do-over on climate change... focusing on just energy is fine, going carbon tax or cap-and-trade or just cap is fine, but harmful steps not so much this time... and I'm worried about the risk of oil & coal giveaways...

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-05 12:34PM | 0 recs
RE: Energy

If one supports nukes the other stuff won't really matter. The market can't support both nuke plants and conventional fuels. If the government is subsidising nuke energy (which is very expensive to start-up but cheap to run), new drilling and mining (whcih is expensive to start and expensive to run) can't compete.

by vecky 2010-03-05 02:09PM | 0 recs
issue environment

Passing HCR still think better to do it than not.  Everything is partisan these days.

As for the energy bill, maybe yes, especially if it's framed as an energy independence/national security issue.

And lastly, I actually think closing Gitmo in exchange for having military tribunals instead is a win-win.  I really think no one outside the progressive blogosphere really wants a costly KSM trial in New York.


by esconded 2010-03-05 12:26PM | 0 recs
RE: issue environment

"clean energy climate legislation" sounds like a good frame.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-05 12:36PM | 0 recs
RE: issue environment

I want to see a trial and conviction. I don't really care where it is though.

by vecky 2010-03-05 02:04PM | 0 recs
It's def. an issue

I don't see how the democrats can "pivot" to some other issue. Universal Health Care has been a democratic obsession since FDR/Truman. If the Dems accomplish it - how can it NOT be an issue? Similarly, if the Dems fail to accomplish it after having come so close, how can it also not be an issue? I guess if it fails the debate will be broadened thou - from one about HCR to one about generic dem incompetency and infighting. That's probably not a winning election slogan.


by vecky 2010-03-05 02:02PM | 0 recs
RE: It's def. an issue

8 months is a long time though, other issues are going to come up. It may re-emerge, but given the framing that its not costing debt, but saving, I bet it fades. Very few actually like the bill anyway. But, you are right, its not out of the woods yet, and a failure would be a big issue.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-05 02:08PM | 0 recs
RE: It's def. an issue

8 months from today... but HCR won't be passed anytime soon. I've given up estimating a timeline but I won't be surprised if it's close to labor day before (if) it finally happens.

by vecky 2010-03-05 02:32PM | 0 recs
RE: It's def. an issue

how can you call what they are trying to pass Universal healthcare?

Damn, this is why I am so disgusted reading "progressive" blogs these days.  What is about to be passed, possibly, is nothing but a heath insurance company bailout.  It is NOT universal and it is not heath care reform. 

There is a certain campaign hack faction (and I too am a campaign hack)which cares more about how this HCR passage effects the chances of democrats being elected than whether it does any good for the people.

IMO, it screw us out of real reform and nothing will be revisited.  Nothing is every revisited and it will not be fixed in reconciliation. 

It is anti-choice no matter what Nancy says. Personally I am sick to death of putting my blood sweat and tears towards helping back stabbing democrats be elected when most people around me are struggling just to have a roof over their heads.

wooo hoooo... lets pass anything and call it victory so that we can keep our majorities and more importantly so that Obama can go on and on about how historic and unprecidented he is and how much better than all those other democrats and republicans who failed before him.

And we wonder why people fucking hate politicians.

by TeresaINPennsylvania 2010-03-06 04:50PM | 0 recs
RE: It's def. an issue

Well, I admit to being in the campaign hack faction; but I think the reason why I'm willing to overlook how ugly this pig has become, is because I have some hope that the Democrats might lead in some other issues. Slim hope, I'd grant, but better than nothing.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-06 05:24PM | 0 recs
RE: It's def. an issue

I too despair on reading "progessive" blogs some days.

Read this: http://www.princeton.edu/~starr/20starr.html and come back and post.

I'm not sure if this is anything about Democrats or campaigns, but delivering on a promise. The best thing politically for the Dems to do would be to close their eyes, say there is no problem that tax cuts and private industry can't solve and leave it at that.

by vecky 2010-03-06 06:55PM | 0 recs
quite the bridge

This is something, if tarheel74 and nofortunateson are both rec'ing a post of mine it must have something for everyone.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-05 02:12PM | 0 recs
Theme vs Policy

Republicans are pretty good at creating a broad thematic frame. Progressives and Democrats in general don't do that very well. We tend to get lost in the details. Look at the discussion above, there we go talking about shale.

That is why passing a bill now is important. Energy, HCR any issue. With the bill passed candidates can pivot. Take HCR, once into a one on one the "repeal it" position can be turned into "do you think". Do you think insurance companies should be allowed to kick sick people out? Do you think insurance companies should be allowed to exclude people with preexisting commissions? So you don't want to repeal it all, so what do you want to repeal?

With the bill passed the specifics argued one on one make the entire effort more comprehensible and acceptable.

by Judeling 2010-03-05 07:14PM | 1 recs
RE: Theme vs Policy

Look at the discussion above, there we go talking about shale.

Good point. I have come around to agree with the passage of the bill. It really reeks imo, and I don't think it could be much worse if it were McCain-Lieberman crafting the bill, but down the road a bit, when healthcare inevitably gets worse with costs, we can move with this structure to a public plan.

That said, I think the way the 'debate' happens isn't really along the civil lines that you are thinking. It's more like the Republicans create a TV ad that says 'Democrats are increasing health insurance costs, imposing new taxes, and creating mandates with penalties by the IRS' is the way their the goes...

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-05 08:40PM | 1 recs
RE: Theme vs Policy

OMG, I have to rec this...

by vecky 2010-03-05 11:59PM | 0 recs
RE: Theme vs Policy

you have way more faith than I do.  I do not believe one more ounce of poltical capital will be spent on health care reform once they get this dog passed.

by TeresaINPennsylvania 2010-03-06 04:53PM | 0 recs
RE: Theme vs Policy

I hear you. Look at this article by Paul Starr written in 1994 in the aftermath of the '93 health care effort.


pretty somber stuff. Amazing how many of the attacks and challenges facing us then are the same now.

The only positive i'll take from it is that Republicans are NOT much better than Democrats in getting their agenda through. Instead of the end of Medicaid we ended up with CHIP.

by vecky 2010-03-05 11:57PM | 0 recs
Oh I agree with both of your points.

But as long as we are going to be stuck with this junk we need to have our candidates ready to respond effectively.

Of course the Republicans will continue to broad brush everything as the evil government coming to "help". It is what they do. My point is that when the race gets down to one on one it is much easier to counter punch. Republicans are very good at getting Democrats stuck on the details. It is fairly easy to turn that around when you have a bill. HCR in particular has lots of places to do so when you realize that many details are popular. So Candidate D asks if candidate R is for repealing those aspects. Once it is established even in just press releases that candidate "R" isn't against all of it then you run the attack ad about wanting all that but not paying for it, or forcing insurance companies to only insure sick people, or being happy when Wal Mart sets supplier prices but it is evil when the government does.

by Judeling 2010-03-06 12:12AM | 0 recs
still up in the air

...My head says yes -- Pelosi will squeak this through -- while my gut frankly says no...I'd hesitate to call the bill a favorite to pass.

My head says don't even try to guess what is going to happen, whether or not it will pass, while my guy tells me look at the track record.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-06 01:51PM | 0 recs
RE: still up in the air

I hope, no I pray that your gut is right.

Since most of this is not scheduled to take effect for 3 or 4 years anyway, we might as well junk it and start over.  Unfortunately democrats,  being unable to read the American people, will try and start over with something even more corporate friendly and socially conservative. 

I have this dream that liberal democrats will come out of their ObamaHaze and realize that they might as well have a republican in the whitehouse and act accordingly.

by TeresaINPennsylvania 2010-03-06 04:59PM | 0 recs


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