Tuesday, September 28, 2010

More words for @JaneHamsher

Preliminaries: What appears below is a response I promised Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake a few hours ago, when I no longer felt able to say what I wanted in 140-character bursts.

For background: a blog post by Jane, a reaction by John Cole (h/t: uncle eb, via email), and then on the Twitter: my original tweet after reading those, her response, my four-part response (you already see where this is going), her response, and my two-part response.

More context, and a couple of other side exchanges, may be noted by looking at the timelines for @janehamsher and @bjkeefe, starting in the evening (EDT) of 27 Sep 2010.


Dear Jane,

Following up on our Twitter exchanges from last night and early this morning …

Here are two things I will concede, up front:

  • You know more about the wonkish details of health care reform than I do.

  • You care more about the wonkish details of health care reform than I do.

Here is one thing I will insist upon, which no amount of yelling from you is going to change:

  • Details notwithstanding, we could not ever have gotten all of what you would have wanted, and what I still dream about, during the past round of health care reform negotiations.

As Jonathan Bernstein (via) and others noted back then, what we can get through our system is, essentially, what we can get the 60th most liberal Senator to agree to. I am not going to get into an discussion of IT'S 50 NOT 60!!!1! about some issue you have now latched onto, if for no other reason than not enough people, by far, believed it back then, and so that's why it didn't happen. What's done is done, and we always knew we would have more to do.

To expand upon a few things I said to you last night, and which I have said elsewhere on these Internets numerous times:

First, I am still rather astounded we got anything substantial on health care reform, given our political system and all the money and noise-making apparatus feeding into it. To that end, I am moved to wish that you, Jane, should be required to write a hundred times on your blackboard, every morning, and before you fire off any blog post on this issue:

This, what we just won a few months ago, is something liberals and Democrats have been trying, and failing, to achieve for longer than I have been alive.

From that, I also say that it was better to have gotten the half a loaf we could get when we could get it, rather than taking an all-or-nothing stance. This view is not something I hold universally, but I do tend to favor it the more I am convinced of the impossibility of asking for "all."

Following on the half-loaf point, I think the way to look at it is this: We now have defined a new starting point. This is the new zero, from which we will begin our next round of activism, negotiations, lobbying, etc., to achieve what both you and I want: universal health care. We may need to fight to hold this new starting point, about which more below, but in a few years, effectively no one will want to go back to where we were prior to 25 March 2010.

Of course things, as they emerged from the sausage-making machine, are not perfect. I say that we will fix them. I admit that it will be slow, painful, and fitful. I think that is how it goes with anything this complex and sweeping. You should, I believe, try to think of this as an ongoing project. A process, even.

Of course it is possible to argue we might have been able to get this, that, or the other thing, back then, if only. I probably could be persuaded on some of these points, individually and in the abstract -- there were humans involved, after all, and so it's virtually certain some bad trades were made, people flinched or screwed up at various points, etc. But as a general principle, I would not be likely to accept most of those arguments, because as I alluded to above, I think if some given thing had been possible back then, we would likely have gotten it, back then.

In any case, I also don't much care. Again: What's done is done. Stop fighting the last battle, especially against your sisters and brothers, and start thinking about how to be smarter for the next one.

And now back to stuff more specifically directed at you and what you have typed out recently.

No, I am not telling you to STFU. (And I do not get why you think I have been attacking you for months.) As I said last night, as I have said so many times to so many of my more idealist comrades: I believe your pushes from the left are, by and large, a good thing. "Now go out and make me do it," as an earlier president is reported to have said to the progressive wing of his base. I salute your efforts and I think your demands are, at minimum, worthy goals that even if sometimes unattainable are always beacons helping us to stay on course.

Yes, I am telling you to think about the consequences of not holding your anger in check every time you are tempted to vent. Probably you have noticed what we are up against. If not, I will elaborate. The Republican Party is now so infested with lunatics, reactionaries, racists, fundamentalists, and generally proud know-nothings that their own senior people are starting to panic. We have, right now, a serious threat to the most broad sense of liberalism, never mind any specific policy goals. We are talking about a small group of people who, due to apathy and excessive pissing and moaning by the American people writ large, have taken over one of the only two games in town.

I am not going to go apocalyptic on you. There are many who have already spelled out the consequences of this threat, better than I could. And perhaps more extensively than I might. What I will say is this: if you, and the people like you who are furious at Obama/Rahm/Axelrod/whomever about some particular aspect of some particular policy issue, and you spend all of your fury and energy on that, then you are guilty of contributing to the election of whatever wingnuts sneak in, a little more than a month from now.

Perhaps you will say you do not care. Perhaps you will say, "Fine! Better someone we can hate unambiguously than having to put up with the mealy-mouthed centrists and the freshly minted!" If so, I will say that there have been times when I have felt this same way, too. (Let us all be happy that "DLC" are three letters we do not hear as much anymore, for example.)

But not this time. You, and too many others on the left, are making process fights into more than they are. Everything seems to be doomsday with you people. Everything must be gotten in its entirety now, or it is forever lost. Or so it looks like you believe to me.

I do not see things like this. In the long-term view, I see liberal goals being achieved slowly, painfully, in fits and starts, but I see them being achieved. And as far as the short term goes, I see our country in a susceptible-to-mindless-demagoguery state at the moment, due largely to our economic problems. I see crazies and amoral opportunists salivating at the idea of using this state of affairs to get their claws into power. And we both know what a fight it took to dislodge them last time.

So, right now, I think we have to concentrate on holding the ground we have gained, however less it is than what we might have hoped for in late 2008. I think we have to try our best to stave off the possibility of a Republican-majority House that will, without a doubt, seek to tie up our president and all liberal policy goals for the next two years, just like the 1994 House tied up Bill Clinton. You want endless "hearings" about Obama's bluedressbirthcertificatedeathcampsvincefoster? That is what is looming. Count on it.

It cannot always be all or nothing, Jane. We cannot make always make progress with this strident Everything, Pure! Everything, Now! attitude that I sometimes get from you. We sometimes have to stop bickering with each other -- nay, demonizing each other -- and recognize the real opponent for what it is. This is one of those times.

I am concerned about larger things, or at least more things. I do not say this in an attempt to sound loftier than thou. It's just that I think you forget the big picture sometimes. I believe that by harping on a few aspects of one particular policy item, you are in effect working your own wedge issue, and that you are doing it against the people with whom you are more closely allied.

There are two parties in this country, as you may be aware. What it seems like you have forgotten is this: though they are both bad, and at times, both horrible, one of them is consistently worse than the other. And not just on the one issue you seem to care about most of all. One party is also worse on everything from denying women's rights to rejecting modern attitudes about science to embracing military might as the answer to all foreign policy problems to wanting to fuck over 98% of the people in this country so that their paymasters can hoard a few more millions. I could name a dozen other major policy arenas, and in every one of them, no matter how much you hate the Dems, I can show you that the Republicans are worse.

That is what is at stake, right now. There is no reasoning with the people who have taken over the Republican Party. They want no compromise. They brag not only about being the Party of No, but the Party of Hell, No. They say, Don't Retreat, Reload. They have been howling since five minutes after that joyous night in early November 2008 that our president is the worst threat to America ever. When they aren't flat-out insisting he's illegitimate. That is what we are up against, right here, right now. That is what I would like you to realize. That is what I would like you to acknowledge, at least to yourself. That is what I would like you to act upon.


Let's get as many Dems elected and reelected as we can, come 2 Nov 2010, and then let's talk about what we should push the hardest on after that. Work together. For not even six weeks. Or at least stop looking to kneecap the person who is actually standing shoulder-to-shoulder with us. Is that so much to ask?

No comments: