Thursday, 7 January 2010

Life Support

Bravely risking his life - or at least risking the next twenty minutes of his life - Tomsk enquired over New Year's about why I haven't posted anything on the healthcare bill since it squeaked through the Senate.

The main reason for my silence, to be honest, aside from how difficult it was to do anything post-victory but slump in a corner and sigh theatrically, was simply that I refused to get my hopes up until I saw what came out of the conference committee. We all know conferences are bad from watching The Phantom Menace (also: organised trade and the Japanese). More importantly, the point was made over at Balloon Juice that it's difficult to imagine why any member of the House of Representatives, particularly a Democrat, could possibly still want their job, now that it's been made abundantly clear to them that no-one could give two shits what they want, the only thing that makes any difference in the US political system right now is what will please recalcitrant Democratic and independent senators enough to beat a Republican filibuster. If nothing else, it's all too easy to imagine the cupidity and (in large part justifiable) anger of a few Democrat Congresspeople leading to them pushing a little too far for some kind of actual, y'know, relevance during the attempt to reconcile the bills, and in the process making one minor change too many and giving Lieberman or Nelson the political cover to kill the bill (and tens of thousands of people, not that anyone ever bothers to ask them about such liberal concerns).

With that in mind, I'm not sure it necessarily makes any logical sense to be happy to hear that the Democrats are skipping the conference process - after all, there'll presumably be exactly the same amount of backroom dealing and ugly, ugly politics - but nevertheless it cheers me up. Mainly, this is because I agree with Kevin Drum's thinking that there's a big advantage in getting to skip out on another umpteen rounds of GOP obstructionism. I know that certain people (possibly even some who read this blog) will point out that obstructionism is an entirely valid tactic for a minority party to employ, but at this point the Republicans have deliberately delayed a vote on military spending that according to at least one general resulted in actively endangering US troops in the field, and forced a terribly ill and wheelchair bound Senator to enter the chamber after midnight to prevent a filibuster [1]. I would argue they've crossed a line somewhere. It's one thing to game the system, another to consciously render it inoperable. I'd further explore the degree of cynical nastiness required to deliberately risk a man's health for the sake of politics, but given the hundreds of thousands of people who are ill, more ill or much more dead because of bullshit GOP posturing, the only faintly surprising thing about all this is that they're happy to do it even to those they work with. [2]

Instead, the Democrats are up for a game of ping-pong. And so, once again, the only people who can destroy the Democrats' chances are the Democrats. Well, them and Joe Lieberman, of course, whose current approval ratings in Connecticut fill me with the kind of unabashed schadenfreude usually reserved for watching women who rejected me get their hearts broken [3] (though rationally I don't see any reason why Lieberman is liable to be any less revenge minded now that his former party and his former voters both see him as the festering pool of corrupt petulant evil that he so clearly is). He might not even be the biggest hurdle, though; Rep. Bart Stupak (D), who was recently revealed to be secretly working with Republicans to kill the bill (though he's shut up recently; the House Democratic Caucus being an awful lot less forgiving of pointless backstabbing than their Senate colleagues are) and his fellow "centrist" Democrats, who like all centrists in the current US government are absolutely convinced there are any number of issues more important than saving the lives of American citizens, are always a concern.

So we've still got a way to go. At least, though, we now have the option to fuck ourselves over faster. These days, that genuinely feels like a little bit of a victory.

[1] Naturally, this has led to conservatives screaming that the Democratic party are unprincipled bastards, because they forced one of their senators to show up in such a poor condition. Let's add this to the list of fucking insane right-wing arguments, just for the record. They tried to kill a bill with the support of the majority of elected officials and the majority of the population (at least in general terms), and did it for reasons that ranged from the heartless to the inaccurate to the full on bat-shit murderously insane. They learned that their incoherent and deeply damaging aims would be entirely out of reach unless a terribly ill man who had put on the record his intention to vote for the bill failed to make a vote they demanded not be waved away despite knowing the only way to win it would be through a reduction in the number of senators due to illness or death (or maybe a traffic accident, if they're lucky). Then they cynically stalled until more than an hour after midnight, in the hopes that magic bus-crash/heart attack cost their opponents the 60th vote necessary to do what their political institution was created to do. Despite all that, the wheel-chair bound senator turned up anyway, and registered the vote they knew he was going to in any case.

After all that, they conclude the Democrats are to blame. Roger that.

[2] Did I mention various conservative groups were literally praying for a Democrat senator to become ill or die before the vote to stop healthcare passing? Well, they were. Sometimes I think we lose sight of the true victim in this battle: irony.

[3] Kid! I kid! Well, almost entirely...

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