What Next on HCR? [Updated]

(This began as a comment to Charles' diary on Clyburn's stupendous tactical blunder.  I post it here as its own diary because I think this site needs more discussion that goes beyond criticism and looks forward to framing strategies for the next phase, strategies that can bring us together to do a much better job as a left flank.)

The problem that progressives face, particularly on domestic issues, is an entrenched opposition that would be happy with nothing and has shown the ability to spin obstruction successfully as a victory.  But beyond belaboring the obvious, this leaves the democratic caucus with three options:

1. Vote down a bad bill and try to win the spin in order to regroup for a better version.

2. Take the "something is better than nothing" attitude.

3. Try to get a bill through that cracks open the door for further reform.

With regard to health care, I have advocated 3 for the last week or so.  I respect principled opposition based on critical analysis of the bill's flaws (option 1).  But there is a preponderance of opinion by those close to the process, both policy wonks and legislators, that even the senate bill can function as groundwork for further amendment and reform.  The public and legislative attention span is finite.  Going back to the proverbial drawing board seems a bad dice roll.  The idea that this bill is simply "better than nothing" (option 2) seems a form of cynicism or defeatism that will do nothing more than ultimately embolden the opposition and demoralize those who want real reform (I think that includes all of us here at MyDD).  Clyburn seems to be falling into this option.  Otherwise, why raise the white flag before convening conference?  

In a certain sense, the die has been cast.  It seems almost a done deal that we will get a bad bill resembling the senate version.  Regardless of which of these 3 options seems the best path, number 3 is where we are at.  What we must do now is look down the road:

1. We need to identify those legislators who actually put up a constructive fight for the PO, for repealing anti-trust, and for drug re-importation and make sure they know we have their backs.  

2. We need to identify those who urged passage based on the argument that there will be further opportunity to improve this bill and that there is more to be gained from passing than killing in the long run, and hold their feet to the fire.  I will be looking for Harkin to make good on his stated intention to push the PO in separate legislation next year.  We must remind him and others of this commitment and it should be coupled with a public campaign that makes this a critical issue for the midterms.

3. We need to do a much better job of confronting the anti-reform spin.  This is where we needed much more effective leadership from Obama.  We needed him to use his talents and charisma to cast reform in terms of identifiable "values" just as Reagan did with his tax cuts and Friedmanesque anti-governmentalism.  We can't rely on him for this.  He has disappointed on this account.  So we need to find a better way.  Maybe then he will get on board.  Presidents often lead when pulled and pushed.  It was true of FDR on the New Deal and with LBJ on civil rights.

4. We cannot successfully primary all those conservadems and those who have caved like Clyburn.  But we do need to identify one or two symbolic races where we can replace a centrist or a progressive with insufficient backbone with someone willing to fight, and make sure that it captures national attention.  This is what the teabaggers are doing effectively.  We don't need the same kind of rabid purity police that we see in the GOP, but we need to display some muscle or Obama will be having lunch with Lieberman, Nelson, and Specter all too often for the next three years.  The consequences of that will be bad if he wins reelection in that manner and even worse if he doesn't.  

Update [2009-12-29 19:42:58 by Strummerson]: I have been uninvolved in the debate here as my day has been devoted to vacation childcare and some precious work time. But there haven't been many openings for the discussion I wanted this diary to spark. Most of us actually share the same goals with regard to HCR. Yet instead of thinking ahead about how to push forward, the debate has once again fallen into personal sniping. I thought that the removal of a few bad actors from the conversation yesterday would have helped. I guess I was naive.

But again, the bill will most likely pass and resemble the Senate version, which most of us find flawed and deficient to varying degrees. We've got several options. Jed Lewison has a piece up at Dkos that outlines them as follows:

Broadly speaking, once it passes, there are three different positions one can take on health care reform:

1. Say that health care reform once and for all solves the national health care crisis ("Mission Accomplished"

2. Say that while health care reform is a major step on the path towards solving the national health care crisis, it doesn't finish the job and more must be done, particularly on cost containment/affordability ("Mend it")

3. Say that repealing health care reform is essential to addressing the national health care crisis ("End it")

For Republicans, the choice is between options #2 and #3 -- "Mend it" vs. "End it."

For most Democrats, the choice is between options #1 and #2 -- "Mission Accomplished" vs. "Mend it."


There are those among us who show no interest into efforts to mend it without rationale for why future efforts might succeed where current efforts fall short. I would rather frame the question as an inquiry into how further efforts might improve upon the present situation. This is how "progressives" pursue "progress." Analyzing how this bill falls short from a policy and a political perspectives should be preliminaries for trying to conceive further possibility, not for dismissing current and future efforts and not for sniping between fellow travelers. I am interested in /any/ suggestions that do not include declaring victory or defeat and walking away. Can't we do that with a bit of civility?

There's more...


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