Tuesday, December 22, 2009

In Response to Drama over Health Care Reform

So the latest kerfuffle is over whether we should kill the bill or pass it and work on improving it. I honestly haven't had the time to do the poring-over of the Senate bill that I'd like, so I'm not going to stake out hard and fast turf on either side. I will say that mandates and no public option were a huge part of the reason I liked Obama's health care plan better than Hillary Clinton's, and it was an opinion that I fine-tuned for months arguing it on the campaign trail against much louder and better-trained voices like, oh, Paul Krugman's. It's what they have in Massachusetts, and it hasn't worked. David Sirota, on Twitter, called it a Giuliani move: making having no health insurance illegal is sort of like making being homeless illegal--and I agree.

ANYWAY. What is good is that the debate is now squarely between us on the left, and you can't tell who's going to say what based on their supposed position on the bar between ZOMG SOCIALISTS and milquetoast slightly-further-left-than-Ben-Nelson centrists.

And just like the primaries, shit has descended into some nasty personal attacks. Thankfully, since my primary exposure to that shit is on Twitter, and I don't follow too many assholes anymore, I haven't seen so much of it. Instead, it filters through on the sidelines.

I think the bill will probably be passed. I think we have to think long and hard about this, because while we have to fight to get everything good out of the House bill we can into the final bill (which is why the staking out of intransigent positions on the left is GOOD STRATEGY, among other things) we do have to take an honest look at the Senate bill and say: if this is the best it ever gets, is this worth passage? Kind of like getting married--you can't marry the person you hope someone turns into, you have to marry the person they are. (OK, enough folksy analogies from me. Palin I ain't.)

Over recent weeks I've been having this argument/discussion with coworkers and other Really Smart People on the left about what's going on with teabaggers and others. I'm firmly of the camp that says that the left is once again getting out-organized. If we had a solid union movement that educated its members and contextualized issues for them along some sort of class basis, I firmly believe that we'd have less angry incoherent teabag signs and much more protests of the people that deserve it: Wall Street.

So. Jane Hamsher is apparently making common cause with teabagger types in her quest to kill the bill. While I shudder at the thought of trying to make ANY common cause with someone like Grover "drown-government-in-the-bathtub" Norquist, I think that acknowledging the populist anger behind the teabaggers is worthwhile.

For instance. Sure, they're astroturfed. They are also real people who are really pissed off.

So this post this morning, from my otherwise-friend Matttbastard (who also has the luxury of Canadian health care and so has far less a horse in this race than I do) kind of ticked me off.

Ok, so: We have an astroturfed right-wing social movement of sorts (almost singlehandedly keeping the polyester lobby and Lee Greenwood from starving) that, following a TOTALLY SPONTANEOUS RANT on CNBC from Rick Santelli, decided to utilize the angry-shouty bits of Saul Alinsky to get their ugly red state mugs on Hardball every fucking night for several months straight. And this is the (bipartisan) model that Hamsher apparently wants to emulate (nearly 8 weeks after the mission accomplished moment that was NY-23) because “the only difference [between wingnuts and progressives] is the messaging”?

This combines SEVERAL things I hate into one paragraph. "Ugly Red State mugs" well gee, you know what? Those are real fucking people too. I'm so tired of the red state/blue state snobbery I could spit. You know what? I lived in red states. I busted my ass on multiple political campaigns in red states and saw one of them turn blue (Colorado). I've talked to pissed-off overworked people who are just looking for someone, ANYONE to give them a narrative of how they got so fucked--and we haven't been doing it.

Also, since when does anyone who calls themselves a lefty get to snarl and sneer at populist street protest? Sure, I laugh at "look at this fucking teabagger" too, but you know what else I do? I wonder why the fuck we're not out there, because at least those people are putting some effort into it. And to some degree they ARE protesting the right people, even if the narrative they have (ZOMG SOCIALIST!) is just factually wrong.

(See latest Global Comment piece for more on activism being actual work)

Alan Grayson got cheers from nearly every corner of the progressive blogosphere for taking what were essentially right-wing tactics (boil down message to one scare-tactic sentence. Repeat. Refuse to apologize.) to the floor of Congress and the major media outlets. Because it WORKED, it was media-savvy and it was a progressive staking out some turf and refusing to cave in.

So while I disagree with partnering with Grover Norquist, who is no kind of populist and every kind of rich plutocratic asshole, I absolutely don't have a problem with acknowledging that the teabaggers A. have some legitimate grievances and B. are using tactics that get attention. I also don't have a problem with someone staking out a hard and fast progressive position and vowing not to swerve from it.

We got the shitty health care bill we have because progressives refused to do that, while assholes like Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson weren't afraid to.