Monday, August 10, 2009


Bob Cesca notes a sad fact. Left-wing ideologues are no more lovers of democracy than are right-wing ideologues. When no one wants to give them their shiny toys, to bow before their superior knowledge and wisdom, and acquiesce to the unassailable facts that lie behind their urge to remake the world, they turn on those among their number who are weak-willed, unworthy, fellow-travelers of the right, pack up their things and go home.

In other words, if they can't get what they want, the way they want it, right now, goddammit, then it's the fault of the rest of the world. Certainly not theirs. How often have we heard, "No bill would be better than a bad bill"? This obvious bit of nonsense, however, gets repeated over and over again until, like Sarah Palin's death panels, it becomes truth.

In our system, everyone gets a say. It's fine with me that the pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies get to pay for advertising against a bill they perceive is not in their interests. It's also fine that folks point out the undue influence their money has on legislators. It's fine that folks wary of such a drastic change in a major area of our economy speak out their concerns; it's also fine that folks who support that change attempt to reassure these same wary ones the changes will accrue to all. That's the way the system operates.

It's also fine with me that the bill not be "perfect". While there are elements I wish were in the bill, including the ability to negotiate prescription drug prices, and a simple, single-payer approach that, while perhaps not mandatory, certainly practically replaced the network of private insurers. To make the perfect the enemy of the good, or even fair, or perhaps difficult to swallow but better than nothing, is a first, a failure in understanding. The Democrats should have begun this process asking for far more than they wanted, knowing full well the Republicans would neither agree to any of it, and would most certainly distort whatever was in there. Then, they could "compromise" away all the things they didn't want, leaving certain essentials. That's the way you negotiate, especially from a position of strength.

All the whining, all the cries of betrayal and failure by the left demonstrate a simple refusal to accept the democratic process in its gritty reality. We are barely six months out from the Bush Presidency, and we keep hearing there's not a dime's worth of difference between Obama and Bush. Obama is arguing against DADT; he's using Bush-era legal arguments for indefinite detention and maintaining a certain level of government secrecy. Now, on what should be the signature legislative accomplishment of his first year in office, he seems to be punting from his own end zone.*

All this talk about betrayal, and no difference belies how awful the Bush years were. Not just for liberals and Democrats, because we not only had no voice in our own governance, but because the policies pursued were so detrimental to out country. All it would have taken, from the beginning, would have been a concerted effort to get the word out that reforming health care is a benefit for every single American. Everyone. It helps us all. Not just fiscally as a nation. Not just financially as families. It helps us down the road. It gives us all peace of mind - we no longer have to worry that some dire illness or traumatic accident is going to destroy our families and our lives, emotionally and financially.

At the end of the day, the anti-democratic streak in our ideological wings, as demonstrated by the left-wing shrieks of failure and betrayal, gives the lie to liberal tolerance. There are some left-wing types out there who refuse to accept that some of our fellow Americans have the same rights as we do. They refuse to accept that they might not have all the answers. They refuse to believe that, having demonstrated their vast technical expertise and knowledge of the facts, that the rest of us would just concede to their greatness. In a democracy, even those who are ignorant have the right to their ignorance, and to voice that ignorance. People have the right to be afraid of change, and to voice that fear. They even have the right to be indignant when some folks on the left refuse to answer their questions without a smirk and a whispered aside about how silly and stupid they are.

That the left didn't do a better job promoting this bill is its own fault. That they didn't have a plan in place to market it to the American people is also its own fault. That the bill is now being overwhelmed on all sides by fear and lies and failure and the acceptance of a defeat that hasn't even occurred (that's another thing; there hasn't been a big debate or vote on any of the bills, except one or two in committee that have passed, and many on the left are harping on failure; they are not only cowardly but doomsayers as well) shows the basic weakness inherent in any undemocratic ideology. If any provision of the bill is watered down or removed, then the whole bill is worthless and needs to be discarded. We liberals, the White House, Democrats in Congress - we are all to blame in part for the current mess of the debate. The elements on the left that want to take their toys and go home because no one wants to play by their rules should be treated no differently that the same behavior from the right. It is undemocratic and, in the end, unAmerican.

*: It should be noted that it is impossible, quite literally, to prepare for a campaign built on deceit, precisely because the possibilities for distortion are almost without number. That so many of the anti-health care reform mobs don't even seem to understand that Medicare is a government insurance program or that the VA is a remarkably efficient, well-run government health care service, and should have been touted from the beginning as examples to be duplicated shows an opportunity lost by supporters of reform. Yet, how would it have been possible to predict beforehand that a former governor of a state would create buzz by insisting the bill includes euthanasia as part of the provisions? We have yet to have a serious, rational discussion on the ways private insurance companies ration care, deny care that leads to death, and have bloated bureaucracies that are inefficient, expensive, and time-wasting. While I still believe the town-hall mobs are going to backfire on Republicans, the Democrats need to address not only the current batch on misinformation out there, but let supporters know that it is impossible to guard against any bit of crap opponents want to fling at it.

Virtual Tin Cup

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