Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Welcoming their Hatred

One of many great Franklin Delano Roosevelt lines comes from a 1936 campaign speech:

We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle.

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace - business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me - and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

Some of those passages are eerily timely, and "I welcome their hatred" is exactly right. I'm not assured the Democrats in general and Obama specifically have this level of conviction, but it's precisely what's necessary. The public pitch may wind up being different, but this sort of internal fire is essential.

The excuse for not investigating and prosecuting the many shameful and unprecedented abuses of the Bush administration was that it would somehow derail the Obama administration's "agenda." That wasn't a sufficient rationale given the crimes committed and the likelihood of them being repeated, but it wasn't an irrational fear.

On human rights, Obama has made some improvements, but on due process, ongoing detention and state secrets, the Obama administration has actually defended the Bush line far too much. And if Obama's domestic "agenda" winds up being milquetoast, what's the point of sacrificing so much to get it?

On health care, a bill without a robust public option might still do some good (as Paul Krugman recently pointed out). However, a public option was a compromise to begin with from single payer. The only reasons to oppose even a public option seem to be partisan politics and being beholden to insurance companies.

The reality is that the Republicans want health care reform to fail. Chuck Grassley, the scumbag using fear-mongering crap worthy of Joseph McCarthy, is also acting like he's the president. As they've shown before and they've said again this time, even if they're given what they ask for, Republicans will vote against the bill. It's not as if this is a fluke, since the Republicans when in power always catered to a small, rich and powerful minority at the expense of their own constituents. They've been doing this for a decade, if not three or four. On top of that, they want Obama and the Democratic Party to fail. Regardless of how good the health plan works, regardless of how it's constituted, regardless of how bipartisan it is, they will run against it. They will hang it around the Democrats' necks.

Given this, it's idiotic to craft a lousy, weak bill. While some compromises will be necessary, the best politics is for the Democrats to push the best policies. They'll own the results, so they had better be good.

The more liberal Democrats do have conviction, unlike their more corporatist pals. But for the craven and corrupt, political savvy should kick in where principle doesn't. In fact, if health care reform works well, the Democrats could be in a fantastic position politically for a long time. The Republicans could have regained some credibility had they actually tried to work for reform. As it is, they're choosing, as always, to trash the Democrats and try to make them look unreliable. It's been awfully effective for the past 30-some years.

What about basic competition? When a group of dishonest, vile assholes comes after you again and again and again, isn't there a natural instinct to want to kick their asses? They're going to keep coming, no matter what. They don't believe in compromise or "appeasement." FDR knew how to deal with that – he called them out, and he let the American people know he'd fight for them.

There are some signs the Democrats are waking up to reality. The Democrats also could do a much, much better job selling health care reform. Being clear and simple would help, as with this chart:

(Click for a larger view.)

Meanwhile, Rick Perlstein's pitch and challenge is great: "No one should have to go broke because they get sick. Why do you disagree?" The first part is a clear moral argument with an emotional appeal. The second puts reform opponents in a tough spot. Reformers can certainly explain the details of policy, and should, but I'll say it once again – this is a struggle with a human face. Those stories need to presented, and when these obstructionist, callous, lying, partisan scumbags attack yet again as they always will, reformers need to fight back, welcome their hatred and put them on the defensive.


Comrade PhysioProf said...

Dude, what the fuck has Obama done for liberals so far other than get elected? I am sick of his bullshit. Yeah, douchewackers like Yglesias are all like, "37 dimensional chess". Bullshit.

Comrade Kevin said...

I think the Democratic party, like much of modern liberalism has tried so hard to be make concessions to alternative points of view that they've undercut their own collective power in the process. We need to draw a line and say that this is and this isn't, and if someone gets bruised feelings, then so be it.

Nowhere inherent in standing firm is some notion that you're not being fair or being somehow discriminatory.