AlterPolitics New Post

This November, Write-In “Public Option”

by on Friday, September 10, 2010 at 5:10 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

I met up with Stan at The Seminal at FireDogLake (FDL).

I’d recently written about the rationality of we on the Left strategically boycotting the upcoming midterm elections, and had continued pushing that notion in the comments of a diary by Democratic Party flack Jason Rosenbaum, seeking help in those elections from we who had given his co-opted little party the Congress and White House on a silver platter just two years ago. In that same diary’s comments, Stan suggested that a strategic write-in campaign, rather than a strategic boycott, would be even better.

And he’s right.

The resulting diary follows. (See it on FDL here.)

Reclaiming the Democratic Party for the American Left

By: themalcontent Wednesday September 8, 2010 11:42 am

Even as elements of the faux-Left media machine crank up their efforts to minimize the inevitable losses Democrats will suffer this fall, a few diaries in the last week […] at FDL have helped crystallize what I believe could prove an effective strategy by which the American Left might reclaim the party from the DINOs who have so thoroughly and blatantly co-opted it.

The search for a credible, irrefutable way to give voice to our frustration has bubbled up in direct proportion to failure of the Obama Administration – and its Democratic Party majorities in both houses of Congress – to lead, since Inauguration Day 2009. So the diaries I’m about to reference contain merely the latest and perhaps most clear statements (to date) about what form such a statement might take, and are not meant to diminish or negate all the deep thought and dedication to progressive ideals so many here have expressed since the 2008 election.

The first, posted last Wednesday by Bill Egnor, prompted this one from me, over the weekend. Yesterday, I shamelessly whored that admittedly hastily assembled diary on several threads on both the main page and here at The Seminal. Then Jason Rosenbaum posted this, and the comments indicate to me that perhaps something resembling critical mass is near.

TheCallUp’s comment on Jason’s diary was my lightbulb moment, and appears to have been one for others. Not merely a boycott of the two major parties by those on the Left, but a way to register our displeasure, one that resists the Coakley-esque parsing which DINO flacks perpetuated – that’s what’s needed.

While writing-in “public option” or “single payer” or “Medicare for all” (h/t to alternateid), or “John Q. Public Option” (and maybe “Jane Q.,” to differentiate male and female voters?) – and I think we must all agree on one of these, or another that relates to the massive health insurance reform FAIL, so as to further reduce any possibility of parsing – the mere act of writing it in won’t get us where we want to go. If the goal is reclaiming the Democratic Party for the American Left, we need to make clear how we’re doing it, why we’re doing it, and what we expect to happen next. Without a clear, succinct statement of our goals, we will be marginalized by the sycophants and we will fail.

Having just elaborated on How we’re doing it, I’ll again state, below, the other elements I believe critical (for ease of reference as we discuss this initiative further in the comments):

Why we’re doing it: Because Barack Obama has failed to lead based on his 2008 stump speech, and Democratic obstructionists within his administration and the Congress are complicit in that failure. To have even a hope of keeping the White House in 2012, we insist Obama begins leading based on his campaign. If he does, we might, in 2012, even give him a majority in both houses of Congress once more. But that majority will not include anyone who thinks or votes like Joe Lieberman, Bart Stupak, Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, and other duplicitous DINOs.

What we expect to happen next: On November 3, the massive Democratic loss still stinging, Obama must fire Rahm Emanuel, Tim Keane, Robert Gibbs, and Tim Geithner, and replace them with Russ Feingold, Dennis Kucinich (or Dr. Dean), Al Franken, and Elizabeth Warren respectively. Further, Warren’s counsel – alone – determines who will head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Note: If Larry Summers has a problem with any of this, he can hit the fucking pike, too.)

And: On November 4, Mr. Obama addresses a joint session of Congress. In the somber, serious-as-a-heart-attack five-minute speech – two minutes is better – he creates by executive order, as Congress looks on, a public works program which mirrors the WPA, but in 2010 proportion to FDR’s 1935 model. He blunty states, with the wolrd watching, that a vote against funding it is a vote against putting Americans back to work. While he’s at it, he signs another order, ending DADT. Finally, he demands legislation outlawing corporate personhood, in similarly blunt fashion: “Refusal to do so will make quite clear which of you work for real people and which work for phony ones – and, I’ll venture, will subject you who work for the latter to the same kind of popular revolt my party has just undergone.”

In closing this diary, I’ll add one more thing: A lot of people have been saying for a long time that the Internet will change politics forever. It almost did in 2008. We now have a chance to actually make it happen, and (respectfully disagreeing with TheCallUp) we don’t need MoveOn to promote it, at least not yet. In fact, the more obvious it becomes that this has truly bubbled up from independently thinking Dems and Progs, the less it opens us to Righty accusations of being an astroturf org like the teabaggers.

So: What HCR-referencing phrase or name can we all agree is best to write in? And, will you commit to e-mailing at least 20 people and/or blogging your support of this initiative at one lefty blog, in order to help get it going?

Remember, we must move quickly: The campaign season is under way.

Obama’s Betrayal Of The Left Spells Problems For The Democratic Party

by on Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 4:44 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

Back when Candidate Obama was working the campaign trail across the country, his message of hope — of overcoming entrenched interests in pursuit of meaningful and necessary change — inspired and stirred a nation.  He marketed his message in an ingenious mantra, “Yes we can,” that conjured up the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.; one who by sheer will, determination, and inspiration had overcome monumental — institutionalized — adversity.

Obama’s message, his symbolism, and his command of issues awoke a sleeping giant in this country: a grass-routes movement high on populism, and deeply suspicious of beltway elites and special interests.  He’d effectively tapped into this spirit across people of all ethnicities, races, religions, and economic backgrounds.  He resonated with them in a way that helped to distinguish himself from his opponent Hillary Clinton, a centrist, whose brand had long been associated with special interest influence.

What Obama effectively stirred up in this country has turned out to be a mixed blessing for the Democratic Party, a party which had strategically repositioned itself to the center as far back as the 1990s, by embracing many of the same corporate interests that had historically backed Republicans.  Since the Clinton years, Democrats successfully placated the Left by throwing them a few bones here and there, while doing the bidding of entrenched interests on more significant and complex issues (like trade, health care, credit card legislation, bankruptcy laws, etc).

Obama made the mistake of believing he could run as ‘Obama the populist,’ to then transform into and govern as ‘Obama the centrist’.  Perhaps he’d merely allowed himself to get sucked into championing populist positions he wasn’t sincerely passionate about during the long and contentious campaign.  Let’s face it, of the three major contenders in the Democratic Primaries, John Edwards started out as the quintessential ‘populist candidate.’  Obama moved more and more in that direction as the primaries continued, and Obama’s delivery of these populist messages became so well received, that I sometimes wonder if at some point he and his campaign just made a strategic decision to ride out the populist wave.  You can see how he might have gotten caught up in it all — the exhilaration of “moving” and “inspiring” the masses; seeing tens of thousands of people queued-up enthusiastically in the rain for hours, to hear how you’re going to finally take them to the promised land, and deliver meaningful change.  I admittedly was one of those waiting in line, in the rain, for five hours, in Chapel Hill (ruined my shoes, btw). 🙂

President Obama and the Democratic Party have a big problem on their hands.  They awakened something of a populist giant, only to betray their hopes, and to leave them feeling more cynical about their government than ever before.  Thomas Jefferson astutely said, “An injured friend is the bitterest of foes.”  I can think of no better expression that more accurately captures the feeling on the Left towards the Democratic Party at this very moment.

Few on the Left blame Republican obstructionism for Washington’s inability to pass a robust public option, or for any of Obama’s other broken campaign promises.  We expect nothing more from the Republicans — our lying, propagandizing, obstructive foes.  We have watched the President and the White House very closely since his election, and are perplexed by his lack of conviction, fortitude, and leadership; his refusal to advocate strongly for his own — supposed — legislative priorities; his nonexistent efforts in getting his campaign promises pushed through two Democratic houses.  Obama had been awarded an overwhelming mandate to implement the change HE PROMISED, and he’s clearly not up to the task.  No, the Left lays the blame squarely at Obama’s feet.

And that may prove to be calamitous for the Democratic Party in the 2010 and 2012 elections — a party whom the Left resented for eight long years, as they signed their names to some of the most catastrophic — often illegal — Bush initiatives imaginable.  Obama and the Democratic Party are still actively covering up Bush’s war crimes — immunizing these neo-cons from ever being held accountable; most likely to cover up Democratic complicity.

The grass-routes enthusiasm for Democrats in 2008 was mostly wrapped up in a hatred for Bush/Cheney and a love of Obama — what he represented; and more importantly, what he advocated for: CHANGE.  Obama, for a moment in time, had reinstated the electorate’s enthusiasm for what had been a complicit, impotent, subservient Democratic Party.  Now that Obama and the Democrats have taken the easy route — tossed meaningful change on several fronts over board in order to accommodate entrenched interests — I suspect Left-leaning populists will abandon voting Democratic across all candidates, something they were all too happy to do in 2008.

Just a hunch …

Stupak-Pitts: A ‘Poison Pill’ Devised To Abort Health Care Reform

by on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 at 8:55 pm EDT in Healthcare, Politics

Blue Dog Democrat Ben Nelson (Senator-Nebraska)How did we ever get to this point — to the Stupak-Pitts amendment — which now threatens to smother meaningful health care reform in its crib?  Let’s start with the underlying agendas of the opposition, and how their failed tactics brought us to the divisive issue at hand.

The GOP agenda, in a nutshell, has long been to diminish Barack Obama as President, at any cost.  By defeating his health care reform bill — one of the cornerstones of his ‘change’ campaign — Republicans would effectively undermine the symbolic significance of his Presidency.  Republican Senator Jim DeMint (SC) admitted this much on a conference call with “tea party” participants, as early as July:

If we’re able to stop Obama on [health care reform] it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.

The Republicans will attempt to defeat any Health Care Reform bill, by any means possible, and at any cost.  They are convinced this will resurrect their party from the ashes.  They’ve latched onto hot button sound bytes like “government takeover,” “socialism,” etc. to confuse their ‘low information’ constituents, and to conjure up fears that their entire way of life is being threatened.  Beyond the far-right-fringe-elements in their party, this strategy has failed.

The Blue Dogs, a group of so-called ‘conservative’ Democrats, has a somewhat different motivation for killing meaningful health care reform.  This group represents the ‘status-quo’ face of the Democratic Party.  They consistently put corporate lobbyist interests above the interests of their constituents, thereby ensuring the nation’s problems never get solved.  And as one might expect, they are well compensated for helping to obstruct meaningful change.  The Washington Post reported as far back as July 31 of this year:

A look at career contribution patterns also shows that typical Blue Dogs receive significantly more money — about 25 percent — from the health-care and insurance sectors than other Democrats, putting them closer to Republicans in attracting industry support.

Most of the major corporations and trade groups in those sectors are regular contributors to the Blue Dog PAC. They include drugmakers such as Pfizer and Novartis; insurers such as WellPoint and Northwestern Mutual Life; and industry organizations such as America’s Health Insurance Plans. The American Medical Association also has been one of the top contributors to individual Blue Dog members over the past 20 years.

The Blue Dogs’ agenda, in a nutshell, has been to ensure that no health care reform legislation adversely affects the profits of the industries that line their pockets.  Competition — nonexistent in today’s health insurance marketplace — would pose a threat to those runaway profits, and so Blue Dogs naturally oppose a public option.

They boast how they too want universal health care, but in reality it’s the Health Insurance Industry-approved version they advocate for — the one where all Americans MUST purchase private health insurance (or face stiff fines) even if they can’t afford it.  Under this version, tax payers would subsidize the private health insurance industry’s extortionate rates, but only for citizens whose income levels qualify.  Where’s the ‘conservatism’ in non-negotiable corporate subsidies?!

In August, Business Week released a story called “The Health Insurance Industry Has Already Won,” revealing the industry’s strategy all along had been “to target the Blue Dog Coalition, which includes Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR)” (as quoted by Think Progress):

Impressing fiscally conservative Democrats like Matheson, a leader of the House of Representatives’ Blue Dog Coalition, is at the heart of UnitedHealth’s strategy. It boils down to ensuring that whatever overhaul Congress passes this year will help rather than hurt huge insurance companies. […]

Matheson, whose Blue Dogs command 52 votes in the House, can’t offer enough praise for UnitedHealth, the largest company of its kind. “The tried and true message of their advocacy,” he says, “is making sure the information they provide is accurate and considered.” […]

Fifteen years after the insurance industry helped kill then-President Bill Clinton’s health-reform initiative, Ross is frustrating the Obama White House by opposing proposals for a government-run insurance concern that would compete with private-sector companies.

The monkey wrench:


After months of misinformation and fear mongering, the Republicans and Blue Dogs failed to scare the American people into their corner:

An Oct. 16-18 CNN/Opinion Research Poll shows that 61 percent of Americans favor a public health insurance option administered by the federal government to compete with private health insurance companies, while only 38% oppose one.

An Oct. 20 Washington Post/ABC News Poll shows that “57 percent of all Americans now favor a public insurance option, while 40 percent oppose it. Support has risen since mid-August, when a bare majority, 52 percent, said they favored it. (In a June Post-ABC poll, support was 62 percent.)”

And even more alarming for the Blue Dogs were polls indicating they were entirely out of step with their constituencies back home. Take, for instance, the state of Arkansas where Rush Limbaugh has a higher approval rating than Barack Obama:

  • Lead Blue Dog, Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) — who had received $921,670 from the Health Care Industry — discovered that in his Arkansas district, the breakdown of recent polls show:  Of ALL voters: 47% favor the public option, 44% oppose one.  Of Independent voters: 47% favor the public option, 43% oppose one.  Of Democratic voters: 74% favor the public option, 19% oppose one.
  • Blue Dog, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) — who had received $325,350 from the Health Care Industry, as of June 30 — found that she was completely undermining the will of her Arkansas constituents.  The breakdown of recent polls showed:  Of ALL voters: 55% favor the public option, 38% oppose one.  Of Independent voters: 56% favor the public option, 34% oppose one.  Of Democratic voters: 81% favor the public option, 14% oppose one.

To make matters worse, the left has taken them into their scopes.  Various progressive groups (MoveOn, PCCC, amongst others) began targeting these politicians with TV ads back in their home districts, documenting the vast sums of money they’d taken from the Health Insurance Industry.  OUCH!

One group, Mobilization For Health Care for All, on different occasions, peacefully protested Joe Lieberman’s Congressional office — refusing to leave until he signed a pledge to stop taking health insurance industry money.  Lieberman hid from them, and had his staff call the police to physically remove them.  These tactics from the left generated what Blue Dogs fear most — exposure of their corruption.  They’d never anticipated blow-back from members of their own party.

So, what’s a Blue Dog to do?  Well, they dipped into the playbook of Karl Rove.  Rove successfully galvanized his conservative base for W’s 2004 re-election campaign, by putting a right-wing-hot-button issue — gay marriage — on the ballots of every key battleground state.  If the strategy could work for George W. Bush, after the Iraq quagmire, it could probably work for anyone.

They couldn’t sell Americans on the evils of the public option, so they changed the subject to something divisive: Roe Vs Wade.  The Blue Dogs and the Republicans joined together to concoct the Stupak-Pitts amendment, which effectively prohibits any private insurer who wants to be part of the new health care exchange program — (note: every private insurers wants access to the 50 million new customers on the health care exchange program) — from funding legal abortions.  So women whose policies now provide this coverage, would most likely see it disappear under the new legislation.

And Nancy Pelosi — desperate to get something through the House — unwittingly allowed this Trojan Horse amendment into the final House bill.  Without missing a beat, Catholic Bishops began to enter the fray lobbying our legislatures to keep the amendment, as have the religious right.  Women’s groups are up in arms about how this thing ever got attached to the health care bill.  The Stupak-Pitts amendment has successfully hijacked the entire debate on health care reform.  It is now all that is being discussed with regards to the pending health care legislation, and it is dividing the Democratic party in two.

And the Blue Dogs are smiling themselves silly.  Blue Dog Dem. Sen. Bill Nelson, whose vote is critical to getting a bill passed in the Senate,  stated today that he would not vote for the current House bill, because of the presence of the public option, but now he adds this to his talking points:

Unless the Senate bill includes a similar provision [as the Stupak-Pitts Amendment] he’ll vote against it.  “Federal taxpayer money ought not to be used to fund abortions,” Nelson said. “So whether it is subsidies on premiums or whether it is tax credits or whatever it is…it should not be used to fund abortions.”

He’s conflating the pro-life issue with health care reform — so as to curry favor with certain religious constituents, who otherwise might punish him at the ballot box for his public option stance.  Abortion is the single key issue to so many on the religious right.  The Blue Dogs have strategically injected the most divisive issue in American politics into the debate as a red-herring — to distract from what they intended to do all along:  kill meaningful health care reform.  Unfortunately, it appears to be working…

The Status Quo And How Washington Ensures It

by on Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 12:03 pm EDT in Politics

A major impasse appears to exist these days between Democrats and Republicans on virtually every issue.  On the surface, it would seem it’s all ideology-based.  But upon closer inspection, their hostilities are, in large part, incited by media-manufactured outrage, where partisan vitriol and ideological demagoguery drowns out all thoughtful discourse. Unfortunately, our country is in […]