Thursday, February 18, 2010

What He Said

I don't know how many times I can link to E.J. Dionne and say, "That's what I think, too!" But assuming I haven't reached my limit, read this. He demolishes the lie that Obama's agenda is in peril for being too left-wing:

Nobody wants to admit that on health care, the moderates won all the big fights. Single-payer was out at the start. The public option died. A Medicare buy-in died. The number of Americans who would be covered shrank. The insurance companies held on to their antitrust exemption. If a bill eventually becomes law--as it must if the Democrats are not to look like a feckless, useless lot--the final proposal will be much closer to the moderate Senate version than to the more progressive bill passed by the House.

And if the Republicans refuse to cooperate, this will not mean that the bill isn't moderate. It will mean only that Republicans refuse to vote for a moderate bill.

But if all the media talk about the "failure of moderation" is nonsense, this doesn't get liberals or Obama off the hook.

While liberals were arguing about public plans and this or that, and while Obama was deep into inside deal-making, the conservatives relentlessly made a straightforward public case based on a syllogism: The economy is a mess. Obama and the Democrats are for big government. Big government is responsible for the mess. Therefore the mess is the fault of Obama and the Big Government Democrats.

Simplistic and misleading? Absolutely. But if liberals and Obama are so smart, how did they--or, if you prefer, "we"--allow conservatives to make this argument so effectively? Why do the mainstream media give it so much credence?

Of course, I think the conservatives' argument is wrong. But at this point, I have to admire their daring and discipline.

And the key point of the entire piece:

Moderate and progressive Democrats alike have eight months between now and this fall's elections to change the terms of the debate and prove they can govern. Otherwise, they'll be washed out by a tidal wave.

It's the best concise summary and analysis of the fights over the stimulus and health care that I have yet read.

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