Saturday Sermon: The Politics of Hopelessness

There are times I agree with this post by Ian Welsh:

My biggest weakness this year in doing analysis has been hope. I have let hope that the Obama administration and a Democratic Congress will do the right thing, and that they aren’t corrupt and incompetent, get in the way of clear thinking. Enough. Hope isn’t a plan, and hope isn’t policy. Hope without good policy is a con-job.
There hasn’t been a good, major, bill come out of this Congress this year. They have all been fatally compromised, from the stimulus bill (larded up with useless tax cuts and without necessary State relief) to the global warming bill, which is so far from doing enough that it’s a joke.
At this point I see no reason to believe this bill won’t be the same. Yes, a few people may get health care who wouldn’t otherwise and that matters, but it won’t contain costs to any significant degree and it will put a huge burden on Americans who can’t afford it. The likelihood that a surtax on the rich to pay for it won’t happen just makes this even more clear.
This is not the Bush administration, but the primary assumption of the Bush years that nothing would get through Congress that wasn’t bought and paid for; that wasn’t fatally compromised at very best still holds in only a mildly mitigated form. Yes, Obama and the Democrats sometimes try to do the right thing while Bush almost never bothered, but the bills that come out at the end are still awful.

I haven’t decided if it’s incompetence, a belief in the Magic of the Middle, or the ‘New’ Democrat idée fixe that political capital is something that can be hoarded. In any case, if Obama fails to deliver significant healthcare change, which means a public option–not nibbling around the edges–this will represent a colossal inability of our political system to accommodate what an overwhelming majority of Americans want. The only hope I see is Waxman’s latest maneuver of bypassing the House Energy and Commerce committee (which is pissing sending the Blue Dog Republicats into a hissy fit):

Personally, I have absolutely no idea what would be “preferable” about going through the ordinary committee process. My life would be positively impacted by a good health care bill. It would be negatively impacted by a bad health care bill. It would also be negatively impacted by indefinite continuation of the status quo. Congressional procedure matters to me, like to all normal people, only insofar as it impacts the course of legislation. The “preferable” process is the process that results in good legislation.
Something a lot of progressive legislative leaders seem to have forgotten until this Congress actually got under way is that historically congressional procedure is a challenge to be surmounted when you want big change to happen. It’s not actually a fixed feature of the landscape that people “have to” accommodate themselves to. For years you couldn’t get a decent Civil Rights bill because segregationists controlled the Judiciary Committee that had jurisdiction. This problem was “solved” by just deciding to bypass the Judiciary Committee. When you decide you want to get things done, you find a way to get them done. Even the allegedly sacrosanct filibuster rule has been changed repeatedly over the years. The law is the law and the constitution is the constitution, but the rules of congressional procedure are not law. They’re internally made rules, they’re subject to change, and the criteria for a good set of rules is that you want rules that produce good legislation and good governance.

I can only hope, and hope isn’t much of a policy….

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3 Responses to Saturday Sermon: The Politics of Hopelessness

  1. “In any case, if Obama fails to deliver significant healthcare change, which means a public option–not nibbling around the edges–this will represent a colossal inability of our political system to accommodate what an overwhelming majority of Americans want.”
    Which is nothing new, given that the whole system is designed to be an antidemocratic oligarchy. I hate to say it, but without major a major institutional restructuring of our electoral and representational procedures, it’s an antidemocratic oligarchy that we’re going to be perpetually stuck with.

  2. Ktesibios says:

    Mike, here’s a hypothesis about what’s wrong with Congress: I suspect that it’s what I call the “bubblegum factory effect”.
    Many years ago I worked in the office machine business. One of our customers was a gum and candy manufacturer, ther Philadelphia Chewing Gum Co. in Havertown. They made variety of sweets, but their flagship product was bubblegum.
    Even though the plant was set a good hundred feet back from the road, merely driving by would subject you to an overpowering blast of the odor of bubblegum. If you walked in the door, the odor would assume humanoid form, grab you by the collar, strike you several times across the face and leap down your throat. Even in the executive offices the smell was overwhelming.
    But, if you commented on the smell to anyone who worked there the reply would invariably be “what smell?”. They had been exposed to such high concentrations of it for so long that they couldn’t perceive it any longer.
    That’s what’s wrong with our elected representatives. They’ve been in the factory for so long that the odor- a mixture of rotting and burning that would impel any normal person to think “Holy crap, what the Hell is wrong in here?” is beyond their ability to perceive.
    You may remember that the word “corruption” used to be s synonym for “decomposition”. Our Congresscritters have been surrounded by the stench of decomposing democracy for so long that they can’t even smell their own corruption.

  3. jacksmith says:

    We have the 37th worst quality of healthcare in the developed world. Conservative estimates are that over 120,000 of you dies each year in America from treatable illness that people in other developed countries don’t die from. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Insured and uninsured. Men, women, children, and babies. This is what being 37th in quality of healthcare means.
    I know that many of you are angry and frustrated that REPUBLICANS! In congress are dragging their feet and trying to block TRUE healthcare reform. What republicans want is just a taxpayer bailout of the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT health insurance industry, and the DISGRACEFUL GREED DRIVEN PRIVATE FOR PROFIT healthcare industry. An insurance bailout is all you really get without a robust government-run public option available on day one.
    These industries have been slaughtering you and your loved ones like cattle for decades for profit. Including members of congress and their families. These REPUBLICANS are FOOLS!
    Republicans and their traitorous allies have been trying to make it look like it’s President Obama’s fault for the delays, and foot dragging. But I think you all know better than that. President Obama inherited one of the worst government catastrophes in American history from these REPUBLICANS! And President Obama has done a brilliant job of turning things around, and working his heart out for all of us.
    But Republicans think you are just a bunch of stupid, idiot, cash cows with short memories. Just like they did under the Bush administration when they helped Bush and Cheney rape America and the rest of the World.
    But you don’t have to put up with that. And this is what you can do. The Republicans below will be up for reelection on November 2, 2010. Just a little over 13 months from now. And many of you will be able to vote early. So pick some names and tell their voters that their representatives (by name) are obstructing TRUE healthcare reform. And are sellouts to the insurance and medical lobbyist.
    Ask them to contact their representatives and tell them that they are going to work to throw them out of office on November 2, 2010, if not before by impeachment, or recall elections. Doing this will give you something more to do to make things better in America. And it will help you feel better too.
    There are many resources on the internet that can help you find people to call and contact. For example, many social networking sites can be searched by state, city, or University. Be inventive and creative. I can think of many ways to do this. But be nice. These are your neighbors. And most will want to help.
    I know there are a few democrats that have been trying to obstruct TRUE healthcare reform too. But the main problem is the Bush Republicans. Removing them is the best thing tactically to do. On the other hand. If you can easily replace a democrat obstructionist with a supportive democrat, DO IT!
    You have been AMAZING!!! my people. Don’t loose heart. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy saving the World. 🙂
    God Bless You
    jacksmith — Working Class
    Republican Senators up for re-election in 2010.
    * Richard Shelby of Alabama
    * Lisa Murkowski of Alaska
    * John McCain of Arizona
    * Mel Martinez of Florida
    * Johnny Isakson of Georgia
    * Mike Crapo of Idaho
    * Chuck Grassley of Iowa
    * Sam Brownback of Kansas
    * Jim Bunning of Kentucky
    * David Vitter of Louisiana
    * Kit Bond of Missouri
    * Judd Gregg of New Hampshire
    * Richard Burr of North Carolina
    * George Voinovich of Ohio
    * Tom Coburn of Oklahoma
    * Jim DeMint of South Carolina
    * John Thune of South Dakota
    * Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas
    * Bob Bennett of Utah

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