Is “Politics Done Right” Done from the Sidelines?


Monday morning, apparently still unaware that Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) had tasked ten Democratic members of the United States Senate to kill the public health insurance option, Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight posted In Polls, Much Opposition to Health Care Plan Is From Left (Dec 7, 2009).

In this post, Nate called attention to a health care poll put out by Ipsos/McClatchy a few weeks ago, pointed out that this poll had done something original by asking Americans who oppose the health care reform bill why they oppose it, and argued that, for many Americans who oppose the bill, the problem is that it didn’t go far enough.

Then, in the same post, just after recognizing that many Progressives are unhappy with the Democrats for failing to do enough to reform health care, Nate took the opportunity to throw out parenthetically “to be clear, my perspective on this is as someone who thinks the bill is pretty decent as is.”

Presumably, at the time Nate was referring to the House’s bill, which does include a public option, and to the Senate’s bill (PDF), which also still included a public option, and wanted to make it clear that, as the so-called “moderate” Democrats work to ruin real health care reform and Progressives work to save it, he’s just standing around, watching.

Indeed, in yesterday’s not-too-cleverly-titled My Last Words on the Public Option (Dec 10, 2009), posted two days after the ten Democratic senators – tasked by Senator Reid to kill a public option while he sat in a corner, curled up, shaking and hugging his knees – in fact moved to scuttle the last vestige of real health care reform, Nate rolled out his seven-point commentary on the current state of health care reform, which had by now been blown way off course by the corporate-driven winds that are being politically empowered by corrupt Democrats (see If Corrupt Democrats Kill the Public Option, It’s All Harry (Nov 23, 2009) by Michael Whitney at Firedoglake).

Among the seven, at least two of Nate’s points must not be allowed to stand unchallenged.


“To claim that a health care bill without a public option is anything other than a huge achievement for progressives is, frankly, bullshit.“


A health care bill without a public option is, frankly, bullshit.

Without creating some kind of option for health care coverage other than the ‘products’ of private insurers looking to rake in profits, it isn’t real reform.

And, the second point that needs challenging:

“Liberals have tended to underestimate what a significant political achievement it would be for Democrats to pass such a major bill that has become rather unpopular with the public. It would be going too far to characterize the Democrats as courageous for passing health care reform (if they do), because at the end of the day, the political case for passing health care reform is probably stronger than the case for failing to do so. Moreover, the handling of public option debate is not completely exogenous from the bill’s popularity or lack thereof. Nevertheless, Democrats have been negotiating into a stiff political headwind for months now, and have been rather resilient in the face of it.”

I’ll agree that Democrats “have been negotiating into a stiff political headwind for months now,” but only in order to have another opportunity to point out that their failure of leadership created it and that they’ve been too incompetent and weak to reverse it.

In other words, why has it “become rather unpopular,” Nate?

Yesterday, I evaluated polls that came out in the past few days and argued that the Democrats created this mess by failing to lead.

In addition to those recent polls, which show that the popularity gap between the two parties has been erased and that support for a public option remains strong despite the Democrats’ failure to lead, Nate is most certainly aware of several other polls – like the Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll at the end of November – that show the Democrats’ base is very much less enthusiastic about going out to vote next time around than is the Republicans’ teabagging base.

Frankly, it’s a little insulting to the intelligence of his readers for Nate to use the words “characterize the Democrats as courageous” [Nate’s emphasis on the last word removed] together in the same sentence for any reason, as they fail so miserably to lead and as they continue to create such a huge mess where there never should have been anything but resounding success.

Speaking of courage, let’s return to Nate in closing.

A couple of days before the gang of ten senators moved to scuttle real health care reform by killing the public option, Nate threw out parenthetically “to be clear, my perspective on this is as someone who thinks the bill is pretty decent as is” as if to say “I’m impartial, right here in the middle between you guys, just standing around, watching.”

Then a couple of days after the gang of ten senators moved to scuttle real health care reform by killing the public option, i.e. when the middle ground had shifted, he comes out with his seven-point defense of total shit, as if to say “no one around here ever said that the public option mattered” and “both sides won.”

Shifting with the winds isn’t “Politics Done Right.”

And it’s certainly not an act of courage.

“Politics Done Right” isn’t done from the sidelines, nor is it done in the abstract.

Maybe it’s time to change the tagline, Nate.

Please go to Public Option Please to see what hard work and courage look like.

[Originally posted at Circleparkforum.]