George Stephanopolous says that there aren’t enough Democratic votes in the Senate to pass a public option, something 77% of the country is in favor, and something Barack Obama campaigned on. No serious journalist is pointing out that this is weird.
Nobody except Bill Moyers that is, who appeared on Bill Maher’s show last night:
MOYERS: I don’t think the problem is the Republicans . . . .The problem is the Democratic Party. This is a party that has told its progressives — who are the most outspoken champions of health care reform — to sit down and shut up. That’s what Rahm Emanuel, the Chief of Staff at the White House, in effect told progressives who stood up as a unit in Congress and said: "no public insurance option, no health care reform."
And I think the reason for that is — in the time since I was there, 40 years ago, the Democratic Part has become like the Republican Party, deeply influenced by corporate money. I think Rahm Emanuel, who is a clever politician, understands that the money for Obama’s re-election will come from the health care industry, from the drug industry, from Wall Street. And so he’s a corporate Democrat who is determined that there won’t be something in this legislation that will turn off these interests. . . .
Money in politics — you’ve had in the last 30 years, money has flooded politics . .. the Supreme Court saying "money is free speech." It goes back to the efforts in the 19th Century to give corporations the right of personhood — so if you as a citizen have the right to donate to campaigns, then so do corporations. Money has flowed in such a flood into both parties that the Democratic Party gets a lot of its support from the very interests that — when the Republicans are in power — financially support the Republicans.
You really have essentially — except for the progressives on the left of the Democratic Party – you really have two corporate parties who in their own way and their own time are serving the interests of basically a narrow set of economic interests in the country — who, as Glenn Greenwald, who is a great analyst and journalist, wrote just this week: these narrow interests seem to win, determine the outcomes, no matter how many Democrats are elected, no matter who has their hands on the levers of powers, these narrow interests determine the outcomes in Washington, even when they have to run roughshod over the interests of ordinary Americans. I’m sad to say that has happened to the Democratic Party.
I’d rather see Barack Obama go down fighting for vigorous strong principled public insurance, than to lose with a [corporate-dominated] bill . . . . the insurers are winning. Everyone already knows the White House has made a deal with the drug industry — promising not to import cheaper drugs from Canada and Europe – promising not to use the government to negotiate for better prices — that deal has been cut . . .
There’s this fear that Barack Obama will become the Grover Cleveland of this era – Grover Cleveland was a good man, but he became a conservative Democratic President because he didn’t fight the powerful interests – people say Obama should be FDR – I’d much rather see him be Theodore Roosevelt –– Teddy Roosevelt loved to fight – … I think if Obama fought instead of really finessed it so much . . . I think it would change the atmosphere.
I’ll expand one point and say that Rahm’s goal is not just to keep corporate donations flowing to Obama in 2012. Remember, it was Axelrod who originally opposed cutting language out of the stimulus bill that would have restricted bonuses paid out by banks like AIG that were TARP recipients, and he eventually lost that battle to Geithner and Summers. Axelrod was worried about the political impact of such a move, which was then (unfairly) laid at Chris Dodd’s feet, and now threatens Dodd’s own reelection chances.
Rahm, former head of the DCCC, is a Clintonista who overlearned the lessons of 1994 when there was a 54 seat swing to the GOP in the House. He and other members of the Baucus Caucus are primarily focused on keeping the money of PhRMA and other stakeholer interests from funding a GOP resurgence in the House in 2010.
But to the larger point — yes, the battle over health care is the battle over who controls K Street. Rather than try to limit K Street’s influence, as Obama promised on the campaign trail, Rahm is trying to retake it for the Democrats. The strategic compromises he’s making threaten to turn Obama into Grover Cleveland, as Moyers says, and in the process make the Democratic Party as wildly popular as the GOP.
Remember, Rahm is the guy who threatened to cut off Democrats who ran against the war in 2006 and forced freshmen to cosponsor the anti-immigrant SAVE Act to innoculate themselves against nativist attacks in 2008. Progressives broke up Rahm’s Iraq dictum in 2006 when Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the primary running against the war, which liberated Democrats across the board to do so in 2006 and led to widespread victories. And Hispanic voters carried Obama across the line in 2008.
It’s an insular group who determine this beltway wisdom, and their near-worship of Rahm’s political acumen has quite nearly led the Democrats over a cliff time and time again. It persists despite all evidence to the contrary, and threatens political disaster for both Obama and the Democrats if it perverts real health care reform into little more than a bailout of K Street health care interests.