The Lesson

by digby

Following the post below, Charlie Cook said this earlier on Hardball and USA Today's Susan Page agreed. Liberals have been taught a lesson and none too soon:

Page: I actually think that one helpful thing for the administration from these raucous town halls we've seen is that liberals who might be very upset by losing the public option may think that health care is in some trouble because it is getting a lot of pushback, and may be more willing to accept a co-op instead of a public option as opposed to getting nothing.

Matthews: So it's kind of like a rope-a-dope in a weird way, stretching the comparison between Mohammed Ali getting hit until the other guy runs out of juice, the idea that he's getting hit so hard teaches the left that maybe they're lucky to get a bill.

Page then went on to also say that it was very important for Democrats to have a bill because they will all suffer if the party has a 60 vote majority in the Senate, a huge majority in the House and a Democratic president and can't pass this signature bill. Matthews replied, "then they all ought to vote for it."

This is correct, although not in the way Matthews thinks it is. The Democrats will rise and fall as a party on health care. There is no margin in failure for any Democratic politician in this country, including Blue Dogs. And that is why the progressives, the safest Democrats in Washington, should stand firm and say they will not vote for a plan without a public option. If the administration understands that they will have no plan otherwise, they will have to accommodate their base and twist the arms of enough Blue Dogs and Senate Corporate lackeys to pass it.

The "lesson" of doing otherwise is that all the right has to do is unleash the teabaggers with a pile of unadulterated bullshit and the administration will cave. I know that sounds perfectly reasonable to these villagers, because the teabaggers are what they perceive to be average Americans, but here in the real world, that is a very dangerous lesson indeed.

I can't speak for other liberals, but the lesson I'm learning from all this is that the administration doesn't understand that they need to use their majority to pass policies that work for average Americans, which has nothing to do with rope-a-dope, and everything to do with political competence. Here's the scorecard so far:

Budget: excellent on paper. Who knows what will happen to it.

Stimulus: Punk'd in the congress, empowered presidents Nelson and Collins, w/probably have to come back for more. Expect shrieking teabagging.

Civil liberties and accountability: nearly total sellout

National security: escalation in Afghanistan, faux withdrawal from Iraq, trillions more in spending.

Environment: watered down cap and trade, probable death in the senate

Health care: strategically compromised, wimpering in the face of teabagging, possible sellout.

Immigration and civil rights: one supreme court justice, push off reform until God knows when

Everything listed there, whether as a matter of principle, future political advantage or long term party building is a disappointment so far. I am not looking for perfection and I didn't expect to get it. But I did think they realized that they needed to get a clear and unambiguous progressive victory on at least one of those things to maintain any kind of fiction that they were fulfilling their promise of change.

The wingnuts are right in one respect. Health care really is his Waterloo. The question is whether he's Wellington or Napoleon.