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Hullabaloo


Saturday, August 22, 2009

 
Siding With Their Ideals

by digby

Jeffrey Feldman notices Obama rather oddly characterizing the public option as being the source of people's confusion in his weekly radio address. I noticed it too, and thought it was a little awkward, but I didn't really take it quite the same way as Jeffrey, but I certainly take his greater point about the administration's general approach:

Obama's decision to fend off the cries for a robust public option, rather than join them, suggests that the White House is reluctant to embrace the political risk of treating healthcare reform as a popular movement, choosing instead to approach it as an exercise in legislative negotiation.

For many Obama supporters who supported President Obama's candidacy because they believed he would rally the public to pass a reform agenda, the White House focus on legislative chess in the healthcare debate has resulting in grumbling about whether or not President Obama is the President they voted for. Fairly or unfairly, Obama now faces a rising tide of doubt in his administration from the very supporters who have backed him most steadfastly since the election.

Many of these supporters are now using internet tools and small donations to signal that their support of healthcare reform anchored in a robust public option would be stronger than their support for an Obama administration willing to negotiate away or weaken a public option.

Thus, weeks before any final bill has actually been written, the healthcare debate has already brought about the most significant change in the American political landscape since Obama won the Iowa caucus to become the leading contender for the Democratic nomination.

The idealists who elected the President are siding with their ideals rather than their candidate.


I would guess that the administration thinks that liberals will forget all about this public option business in four years and have nowhere to go anyway, so there's no need to worry about them. And they might even be right except, as I've noted before, the list of "hedges," "compromises" and betrayals" is getting quite long. And it's only in the first year, the time when the president has the most political capital and doesn't have to obsess over what every ignorant swing voter thinks about everything.

And there are some big fights to come --- one big one especially, called "war funding" that could make health care look like a kindergarten cat fight. And I have absolutely zero reason at this point to think that one's going to come out any better than health care.

I don't think Obama can count on all of his base sticking with him through thick and thin. Watching a Democratic president and a large Democratic majority unwilling to pass decent legislation in the face of the dysfunctional, impotent clownshow that currently calls itself the Republican Party is about the most depressing thing I've seen in all my years observing politics. I can't even imagine how I would feel if I were 20 years younger and a lot less cynical.


Update: Joan Walsh has a nice piece on this subject today.


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