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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kudos to Kucinich

Plum Line
Dennis Kucinich just made it official: He’s voting for the Senate bill, making him the first member to go on record flip[p]ing his vote from No to Yes. “In the past week it’s become clear that the vote on the final bill will be very close,” Kucinich, who voted No last time because of the lack of the public option, said at a presser moments ago. He acknowle[d]ged that he’d be voting “not on the bill as I would like to see it, but as it is.” ... “However, after careful discussions with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi” and others, Kucinich said, “I’ve decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.” … Kucinich… recognized how difficult Obama’s challenge is. “I left [a meeting with Obama] with a real sense of compassion for our president and what he’s going through,” he said. “We have to be compassionate towards those who are called upon to make decisions for this nation. It’s not an easy burden that he’s taken up." … Kucinich said that ultimately he couldn’t escape the argument that “something is better than nothing.” ... “People are looking for some hope that maybe something can be changed,” he said, suggesting that… passing reform is essential in order to prove to Americans that government is not entirely dysfunctional. Kucinich conceded that… failure would be a threat to Obama’s overall agenda. He said he has “a real desire for our president to succeed,” adding that “one of the things that bothers me is the attempt to deligitimize this presidency.”

Kucinich is doing the right thing and for the right reasons and he is also obviously right about the deficiencies in the bill and the need to direct attention to these deficiencies as part of the effort to move forward to considerably better healthcare reform in months to come.

I was quite annoyed that he (and some others whose politics I tend to identify with otherwise, frankly) seemed nonsensically to be proposing that not passing this obviously compromised bill after a year-long nightmare of effort handing a victory to lying obstructionist Republicans somehow brought us closer to the single payer system every sane informed Democratically-minded citizen wants than passing it would. This is a counterintuitive belief to say the least, even before one grasps that it is a counterintuitive belief held in defiance of awareness of the cost of failure to millions of citizens who will get needed support they are not getting now through passage of the bill, compromised though it surely is.

Kucinich is not saying that stuff anymore.

Credit where credit is due.


Khephra said...

Wow! I don't think I could disagree more! I think this is indication of back-room pressure - probably blackmail, too. Kucinich is a regular on Democracy Now!. In the past few appearances he's lost all credibility with me. On Thursday Nader took him apart, and it was almost pitiful to watch squirm and evade.

That aside, I struggle to see what's in this bill that would make an otherwise reasonable person advocate against their best interests. Would you like to elaborate on that support of such a blatant failure of democracy?

Dale Carrico said...

Compared to the single payer public healthcare system I have advocated since the 1980s and which I suspect you would also prefer given your reference to the fine program Democracy Now! this reform we are getting is obviously absolutely inadequate and also terribly disappointing -- and it is an even less progressive outcome than I had hoped even pragmatic wrangling and compromising would have accomplished after Obama's victory -- but compared to the present state of affairs it seems to me this reform is just as obviously preferable and progressive, will save lives, will ameliorate some current egregious misconduct by for-profit insurance companies, and will transform the institutional terrain in ways that will provide an incomparably better foothold from which to struggle for even better outcomes for those of us who still demand a real public healthcare system here in the United States.

No doubt you disagree with this assessment. What matters most is where we go from here.

In my opinion democratically minded people should declare this a victory, and then use the victory to fight Republicans and also punish those Democrats who have fought us on achieving much more progressive healthcare reform and whose constituencies are more progressive than they are with primary challenges (I do not advocate this in districts where their constituencies are more conservative than they are, another point on which you may disagree with me), and also begin organizing and educating immediately and forcefully to supplement and correct the flaws in this reform to bring us closer to our goals.

Declaring a limited victory a total defeat or punishing the representatives most in line with your own values to the direct benefit of those who do not is frankly idiotic unless you imagine politics to be an essentially aesthetic exercise in performance art for an audience of people who would serve you better as fellow-citizens in a collective struggle to solve shared problems.

I am not accusing you of the latter and I hope that is not the case with you -- nor do I think social democrats or democratic socialists (like me) should be rejoicing exactly in what amounts to a turning of a tide that remains far from the destination we desire from the struggle for healthcare reform in the US.

But this is a beginning and not an ending -- and it is better by far than the other outcomes actually on offer. Such things really do matter. Folks on the left in this anti-intellectual and corporate-militarized nation have to know how to walk and chew gum at the same time. Social struggle is not a philosophical debate (and as a philosopher by training you can be sure that I do not mean to denigrate critical analysis in saying so). Draw such measure of strength from what is a limited victory where even such limited victories have been desperately few and far between -- you will need that strength in the struggle for the next fight. My best to you.