Tuesday, January 19, 2010

As the Postmortems fly...

...I'm arguing with some smart, serious progressives: in this case, the good folks over at Shared Sacrifice.

They say, start over! "A bad bill is worse than no bill....The reason the 'reform' as it is currently looking to be enacted has become so unpopular is because it is a total giveaway to corporate interests with the American people being FORCED to pay for it individually and collectively. By going back to the drawing board they can show independents that they really do get the message and are ready to lead."

I say (in somewhat greater length than in the original Facebook entry):

"Look. I'm upset with what's being proposed. No--I'm not upset; I'm annoyed, because I wanted something I could love and believe in, and what I'm getting instead (assuming I get anything at all!) is something quite nice and needed, but not anything that actually reforms the status quo. I would love to believe that the American electorate is upset about the proposed reform because it is a giveaway to corporate interests. But I don't think that's the case at all. I believe a small (but significant) of Americans deeply hate the bill, and they're able pick up enough distrustful and worried and confused people to win elections, by pointing out things like the individual mandate, which the Democrats are collectively unable to make a case for, because the non-designed-hopefully-help-control-health-care-costs part of the reform which might have made the mandate palatable to individual Americans--namely, the public option, or at least something like unto it--was taken away. There is a case that can be made for the mandate, as part of a scheme to control costs and to level the playing field across the insurance market through exchanges, etc., just as there can be a case made for the whole bill--not as a proper reform, of course, but at least as a decent bit of social welfare. But will anyone in the House (meaning both the White House and the House of Representatives) make that case?

"Lieberman did his work well. The Medicare buy-in was perhaps the last chance this bill had to put it's stupid, corporate-addicted complications into a framework that could garner 60 votes and promise something more than just a wonky bit of redistribution (as valuable as that redistribution may be, assuming it ever becomes law, to about 30 million or so of the 45 million Americans currently without insurance). In killing that, however, it just became one more social welfare bill. And "one more bill," facing extraordinary, paranoid opposition, deserves better than a joke of a candidate like Coakley."

[Update, 1/20/10, 7:17am: a further exchange with my friend Matt Stannard:

The Brown victory underscores the need for progressives to become progressives. And that means we need to become unapologetic egalitarians--conscientiously pointing out that the Liebermans, Browns, and Emmanuel-Obamanians are corporatists, explaining why that's wrong and calling them out for it. If you're in the Democratic party, it's a lot harder to do that. We need to rally behind pols like Bernie Sanders, Tony Weiner, Dennis Kucinich, and build, build, build the Greens. We need to encourage all these groups that adhere to socialist theory and practice (SWP, SEP, SPUSA etc) to form a large coalition, multiplying their numbers from a few hundred each to several thousand--a good-sized socialist education corps. And we need to develop street theater and performative protest tactics that politically and aesthetically outshine the tea parties.

And we need to do it now. This is not a "reform versus revolution" question, at least not now. It's a question of immediately re-establishing an egalitarian message and presence in politics and culture.

My response? Well, first, he left out the DSA. Second, I'm personally not crazy about "street theater and performative protest," at least these days...though Matt has a good point in his comparisons to the Tea Party folks, and maybe I need to rethink my reluctance. More crucially, to his overall argument, my heart still says both yes and no. (I know, I know; my patented wishy-washiness, again.) Yes, real egalitarianism--not welfare and subsidies, but real social justice and community-empowering reforms--cannot be built through political victories, but through changes of the heart, through building up an ethos, and that means supporting movements and parties (speaking of which: don't forget the DSA!) who push these ideals, highlight their value, argue for them on their own terms. But no, such can't be the only implication of Brown's victory. We can't assume that all battles being fought by corporate liberals are equally irrelevant in the face of the need to build a "socialist education corps." This bill--which may have died last night, but I still think it yet lives--would, if it becomes law, build upon and extend corporate liberalism in the U.S....but for millions of people, the egalitarianism promised by such corporate liberalism is far from worthless. It can mean the difference between solvency and a medical bankruptcy. It can mean the difference between life and death.

The ideal socialist education corps should urge aspiring egalitarians to keep themselves free from aligning with any of the the compromises and give-aways that will obviously attend bail-outs and Wall Street deals, etc. But they shouldn't take from Brown's victory that, in this particular case, working with the ameliorists wasn't worth it, and still isn't. In the matter of health care, I disagree about bad bills being worse than no bills; even bad, colluding bills can be more egalitarian than what we have now.]

No comments: