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Author: Raine    Date: 03/18/2010 12:42:43

I want to thank Dennis Kucinich today. Yesterday he announced that he will be voting for the healthcare reform bill even with his objections. I've been a harsh critic of him regarding this issue, so I was happy he changed his mind, even though I also saw the anguish it caused him. Yesterday he stated:

"One of the things that has bothered me is the attempt to try to delegitimize his presidency. That hurts the nation when that happens," the Cleveland congressman said, sounding genuinely anguished. "We have to be very careful" that "President Obama's presidency not be destroyed by this debate ... Even though I have many differences with him on policy, there's something much bigger at stake here for America."

Joan Walsh at Salon writes:
Kucinich knows as well as anyone that the president is far from a socialist; he's a centrist corporatist Democrat, and that was clear back when Kucinich stood well to his left during the 2008 primaries. And even though the Cleveland progressive normally avoids partisan calculations about power and opportunity, and votes his conscience and ideology, Kucinich decided to support Obama's healthcare reform plan because right now, partisan calculations about power and opportunity actually serve his left-wing conscience and ideology.

Kucinich understands, in a way that folks like Michael Moore don't seem to, that there will be no healthcare reform for another generation if this bill doesn't pass. There will be no second Obama term either (and don't dream about lefty primary challenges -- there won't be a Democrat in the White House in 2013 if his name isn't Obama). The only thing worse than being an alleged socialist in American politics is being a weak, ineffectual socialist, and if the president and his party can't get this package passed, despite controlling the White House and a healthy majority in both houses of Congress, they will be rebuked by the voters. And maybe rightly rebuked. What better sign that a party isn't ready to govern?

I've written extensively about my disappointment with Obama and the Democrats, particularly around the healthcare reform plan. He gave Republicans and conservative Democrats too much power for too long, and he sold out early to the insurance and pharmaceutical industry. I don't like the deals Obama made, but he did what he thought he had to do. The left thinks he's wrong; we can prove that when we have a better hold on power. But we won't move the party left by abandoning Obama on healthcare (on detention and secrecy issues, I mostly have abandoned him). Like it or not, Obama is roughly at the party's center; we should work to pull him left. If progressives set him up as a right-winger to try to demonize and defeat him, they will become irrelevant.
Progressives will not only become irrelevant they will be as complicit as those on the right. It's is nice to have a voice like Ms. Walsh on board regarding this issue. She makes a fair and compelling case. Criticism is good, pushing to the left is good. Crushing the debate is dangerous. Dennis knows that and he sees what is happening in this country. When people with the power of the pen and the radio say things like this:
Shorter Kucinich: I support giving away billions to health insurance companies because we should all feel bad for poor Barack Obama. How pathetic, really.
or this:
I just realized: Calling the Professional Left "sheeple" is a serious insult to the intelligence of livestock. My sincere apologies to farm animals.
Does that sound like a progressive? In what way are comments like that helpful to bringing people into the progressive movement? How is it helpful that some progressives are actually working with Grover Norquist? People are actively working on scrapping this bill altogether because it isn't good enough. I am sick of that kind of rhetoric and venom from my side of the aisle, to be quite honest. I believe we can disagree without calling each other names, or accusing each other of being corporate sellouts, or "sheeple". It's insulting, and something I expect from the likes of the Tea Partiers. Sadly it's coming from both ends of the political spectrum. These types of statements and actions do not foster debate; they do just the opposite.

But there is more hope from the Progressive side of the aisle than the negativity. Along with Ms. Walsh, The Nation has come around.
For all these reasons, we support passage of the bill, even as we urge the progressive community to begin the struggle immediately to correct its many flaws and improve its protections. Some of this can be done quickly, via the reconciliation process. Some of it can and should be done with new legislation, such as robust public option bills by Senator Sherrod Brown and Representative Alan Grayson and proposals to expand Medicare and eliminate the health insurance industry's anti-trust exemption.

If this crucial second step is taken quickly and boldly, progressives will have an agenda and an argument for maintaining the pressure through this year's election cycle and in the years to come--when the crucial details of the reform will be implemented. Are we prepared to carry on a knock-down, drag-out fight with the insurance and pharmaceutical industries? The opposition is formidable, but there is a base for mobilization in both houses of Congress. Ultimately, our message must be that genuine reform begins, and only begins, with passage of the current legislation. It ends with achievement of the goal that should be our new battle cry: Medicare for All.

Planned Parenthood supports this bill as does NARAL. 59,000 nuns do too along with 25 pro-life Catholic theologians and Evangelical leaders. The list is growing...

I think that Dennis saw the bigger picture here, and as a result, others have followed in their support. This is why his yes vote was so critical. Healthcare reform, even with the bill we have now, is critical to not only this administration, not only to the millions of people it will help, but it's critical to our country. We can make the the bill better after the it becomes law. We can elect more progressive candidates in the midterm. BUT -- We won't be able to do either if the President and the Democrats lose Healthcare reform.


49 comments (Latest Comment: 03/19/2010 01:02:08 by livingonli)
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