There is a genuine and justified concern among progressives that this bill enshrines an alarming corporatist Democrat view of “reform”: Make nominally liberal social-service expansions safe for the private sector. That is absolutely what is going on.
But that’s as far as the Democrats and the progressive movement have taken us to date. We have a lot more work to do. In my opinion, left and center Democrats need to compromise now, make good on their campaign promise to pass the bill and insure millions more people. And then progressives need to challenge the corporatist pillars of the party in rhetoric, legislation, and in elections, in 2010 and 2012, and beyond.
I said before the 2008 elections that one election would not turn America into progressive paradise. I said it would take many elections and many years of pushing elected officials back to the idea that they represent people and not corporations. The 2006 and 2008 elections were not the culmination of a great progressive effort, but just the beginning. I think we’re going to have to have a substantial turnover in Congress, and not just among Republicans, before we get legislation that doesn’t stink out loud.
However, in the meantime, we have a genuine crisis on our hands. People are dying who shouldn’t have to die. People are being financially ruined by medical bills. The bill as it is, like it or not, will make a huge difference in the lives of millions of people.
It’s as if you see people drowning in the ocean, but in order to save them you’ve got to rent a boat from some unsavory character who will use the money for an unjust cause. As I said in an earlier post, if we had a reasonable expectation that killing the current bill would inspire Congress to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better one, then I’d say kill it. But there’s no way that would happen. The reality is that it’s this bill or the status quo for at least a decade.
I also think that killing the bill plays into the Right’s hands. Killing this bill will do nothing to help the cause of progressivism going forward. Killing this bill is, ultimately, what the corporate interests want. Yes, the corporate interests like the compromised bill better than a progressive bill, but they’d like no bill at all even more.
Someone has said that on the Left, wonks tend to be for the bill and activists against it. Without naming names, it seems to me that many of those activists against it are people who have no personal experience with life without health insurance. Maybe I’m wrong about that. However, for me, living with the status quo for another ten or fifteen years is unbearable, considering the millions of Americans who have no insurance unless this bill is passed.
By all means, let’s complain loudly about the parts of the bill we don’t like, such as the giveaway to Big Pharma. Keep pushing for improvements, before and after the bill is passed. Let President Obama know we are disappointed he didn’t push harder for the public option. But don’t kill the bill.