Did Something Happen On The Way To The Debacle?

by digby

Ben Nelson is depressed:

If this is accurate, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) gets a medal for prescience and Sen. Olympia Snowe's decision may be made for her. Two high profile conservative Democrats are saying they hear that Senate and White House health care negotiators are leaning toward including the public option in the base bill that they bring to the Senate floor.

"I keep hearing there is a lot of leaning toward some sort of national public option, unfortunately, from my standpoint," said Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). "I still believe a state-based approach is the way in which to go. So I'm not being shy about making that point."

"What I'm hearing is this is the direction of the conversation," said Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND).

Reid's office is not commenting on the speculation. But if Nelson and Conrad's understanding is correct it would be bombshell news.

I actually don't think it's a bombshell. Everything indicates that a public option is the smart move politically and substantively. The Village thought it was dead because they assumed that because a bunch of insane wingnuts disguised as normal, white Real Americans were shrieking at the top of their lungs, that "the people" had spoken. But the people have always been for a public option and the numbers aren't going down.

This is the same mistake they made about the Clinton impeachment. They assume that the whole country is bat shit crazy when only a portion of it is. And they try to identify with that lunacy and build their narratives around it. But politicians have to deal with actual voters and they do surveys to figure out what they really think. And when the numbers are as consistent as they've been for the public option, over months of controversy and nay saying, they have to take them into consideration. The villagers were stunned when the senate didn't convict Clinton, and even more stunned when he didn't resign. And one of those things probably would have happened if the people weren't more sane than the villagers and the wingnuts on the subject and recognized it for the silly witch hunt it was.

Now, it's not always that easy, of course. Politicians also answer to the wealthy owners of America, which means that the people's wishes are only one small factor. (The democracy thing sure is adorable.) But in this case, the owners of America are all over the place and the costs associated with both keeping the status quo and passing a plan that will fail are very, very high for them as well as the people. The economy is terrible and people are suffering and desperately looking for some sign of relief. The Republicans made themselves irrelevant. Therefore, this calculation is not so simple and the opportunity is greater.

I have always held out quite a bit of hope that the public plan could be included in the bill and still do. But I can't tell the future and neither can anyone else --- I can't say if it's going to be adequate to stave off failure and I don't know if the subsidies are going to be enough to make any plan affordable to the vast majority of the uninsured. But the political calculation has always favored putting it in because reform will almost definitely fail if they don't. The fact that liberals stayed focused and relentless on the issue required the media to keep asking the question in public opinion polling and keeping the issue on the forefront of the agenda long after the establishment just wanted it to go away. It's been a demonstration of a good progressive strategy.

That doesn't guarantee that it's going to happen. There are egos and sell-outs and traitors galore in the congress and the White House and I think it's clear that these things don't always take a logical path. But the fact that it's still alive at this stage is a hopeful sign. If the liberals stay together it's going to be a gut check for the conservative Dems instead of them -- which "centrist" Democrats are willing to tank the country's best chance to reform the health care system in decades?

It's not 1994, and the Republicans are a mess. There is no political upside to doing their dirty work for them like there was back then. There's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.