Cognitive Dissidents: Progressives are having buyer’s remorse…
But, they seem unable to figure out who sold them the bill of goods…
John Atcheson is suffering the nagging feeling that he, and progressives generally, have been had:
At the risk of being churlish, passing this health care bill was the palest of victories.
Yes, it’s better than nothing, but as the President himself has pointed out, it’s largely made up of proposals the Republicans advocated a little more than a decade ago.
So, while this is certainly a political victory, it is far from a triumph of progressive ideals. Indeed, this Legislation is a sign of how far the political center has drifted to the right in the last three decades.
He asks a question a few progressives seem willing to broach:
How did we let this happen?
The fault clearly lies with the conservatives (of course):
We’ve allowed conservatives to set the terms of the debate and shape the national dialogue.
For three decades, pundits and progressives have been struggling to explain why popular and much needed programs like health care, financial reform, and climate and clean energy bills keep getting scuttled, or compromised into inanity.
Let’s start with the health care legislation. As late as June of 2009, more than 70% of Americans still favored including a public option, and 66% favored Medicare for all. Yet after progressive compromises and an extensive “debate” over the summer, we were reduced to pursuing anemic health insurance reform. The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that we got beat at “messaging”, and it was this defeat that led to us celebrating passage of an essentially Republican proposal.
Clean energy and climate change? Same deal. Start with a broadly shared sense that a changing climate represents a clear and present danger, and that the solution – clean energy policy supported by a market friendly cap and trade system – will improve the economy, create jobs, and bolster national security and after years of debate, end up on the defensive. We’re losing ground on the science; on the economics; and on the kind of fix we need. The Obama administration and the House have been relatively decisive and clear on the dangers and opportunities inherent in an overheated world, but as usual, the one culprit everyone agrees on is that we’re getting our butts kicked in the messaging department and that we need to reframe the debate.
How are progressives failing to frame the debate? Conservatives have been successful at promoting three big myths that progressives have not directly confronted:
Myth 1) the free market, left to it’s own devices, will solve all our problems and make us all rich; Myth 2) Gubmint’ can’t do nothin’ but take your money and waste it while destroying the entrepreneurial spirit of everyday ‘Mericans; and Myth 3) there’s really scary stuff out there (Commies and socialists, terrorists, black people, immigrants, gays, flag-burners, gay flag-burners, black gay flag-burners – whatever it takes to keep us from examining the other myths).
From health insurance reform, financial regulation, to climate change, to defense expenditures, the conservative argument dominates the stage and effectively silences the progressive platform for reform. Progressives must respond by making forceful arguments that government is the solution, not the problem; that corporate devils are the enemy; and, that reason must replace fear as the driving force in American politics.
John says that making this argument should not be all that difficult. While some might argue that Washington – with its military capacity to irradiate the planet – poses a terrible threat to human life itself, progressives would counter that those evil Goldman Sachs guys are paying out bonuses with taxpayer money given to them by … er, Washington.
Welcome to the sausage factory
John, I think this is going to be just a little bit more complicated than you first let on. You said we should look to government, because it. “allows us to reap the best of capitalism without its excesses, it is the way we as a people have accomplished most of what has made America great, and when the public interest is at stake, public programs outperform private ones …”
But, aren’t coal miners stripping mountain tops and despoiling the land, air and water because Washington let them? Wasn’t it Washington who deregulated the financial sector and turned Goldman Sachs loose on a crime spree that brought down Iceland? Didn’t Washington just turn the health care of millions over to for profit death panels? And, when it really comes to fear, should pregnant women in Afghanistan worry more about Exxon-Mobil, or the US military?
These aren’t the acts of “conservatives”; Washington did these things.
Your definition of success depends on the alleged ability of this same Washington to reap the best of what Wall Street bottom feeders do without tolerating their excesses. Even if Washington reformed its ways and acted as you think it should, you expect these avaricious, vile, detestable, poisonous swine to serve as the main ingredient for the sausage factory in Washington and hoping society doesn’t die of food poisoning.
How the fuck does that happen? Is the Messiah supposed to wave his hands over this product, and everything is kosher?
And, if we suppose that Washington reforms itself, and the bottom feeders can be safely relied upon as a means to effect public goals, you still haven’t explained how this vision is supposed to be implemented. The economy in the Soviet Union was owned and directly managed by the government, and it was every bit as dirty and befouled as any Peabody strip mine. Yet, you expect to gain something approaching reasonably economically efficient, environmentally friendly, indirect control, by a vast divided populace, over a equally vast, heavily fragmented, globe straddling industrial, commercial, and financial infrastructure and wield it for goodness and the public welfare?
Just who is supposed to accomplish this feat of magic? Barney Frank? Kent Conrad? Bart Stupak?
Or, do we just set the Messiah up with his own Bloomberg terminal in the Oval Office, with monitor feeds from every corporate board room, so he can micro-manage every business decision made on Wall Street?
Just how the fuck is this supposed to work?
And don’t start quoting Eisenhower – you disingenuous person. He was criticizing a military industrial complex created by two successive Democratic Party administrations! Washington IS the Democratic Party establishment. Dead pregnant women in Afghanistan are the monstrous legacy of every administration since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And, Wall Street is merely one of its tentacles.
You aren’t engaged in some political battle with conservatives, John. You are rebelling against the logical inconsistencies of your own ideology – wake up!