Monday, 15 March 2010

You Knew It Was Coming...

Those of you keeping an eye on the international headlines may have noted there's going to be a vote on HCR this Friday or Saturday. I'd love to tell you more about it (just as, no doubt, you would love to hear more), but honestly, I can't work out what the Hell is going on. No-one seems to think Pelosi has the votes yet, but she seems breathlessly confident that she will have by the time she needs them. She's the political mastermind, not me, and she has the home phone numbers for everyone involved, but I still have to confess to being a little nervous.

Regardless of the outcome, though, I'm almost indescribably relieved that we're going to at least see a vote. I'd far rather have a list of names for Democrats who tried - and may still succeed - to detonate a year's worth of work on one of their party's top three issues (maybe even the absolute numero uno - look how well my Spanish is coming on) who can be savaged in their primaries than just watch everyone pretend the last fourteen months never happened.

I'd also like to take a moment to offer sincere shout-outs to both the President of the Catholic Health Organisation and the entirety of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good for reminding me of the difference between holding principles I disagree with (however strongly) and just being a incoherent babbling hack using principles as cover. I am not too proud to confess that listening to Stupak complain everyone is "ignoring" him has probably maxed out my month's allocation of schandenfreude - yes I got me some German too because I am an international jet-setting cephalopodic playboy. Further props - nay, mad props - are bestowed upon whomever it was in the Democratic Party who decided to try and shore up support for the HCR bill by suggesting they hitch on legislation aimed at improving the college loan system. It says something fairly pathetic about the political process that I am so blown away by the concept of attempting to shore up votes by making a bill better, but I'm choosing to focus on the positive today.

Well, I was. Whilst we're on the subject of HCR, and voting practices, let's spare a thought for poor old Dennis Kucinich. His principles are closer to mine than perhaps any other US Congressperson, as a result of which a) he's gotten almost nothing done in his entire career, and b) he's repeatedly voted against Democratic legislation for not being left-wing enough.

I share the frustrations of many people over his refusal to get on board with the current bill, both because his argument is quite simply flat-out wrong (anyone suggesting progressive legislation aimed at reducing inequality and/or enshrining the public's right to services isn't going to be built on in the future just isn't paying attention), and because he knows it won't do any good. He is not moving the Overton window [1]. He just isn't. It isn't fair that he isn't, but that's the way it is. One man cannot move the Overton window to the left in America from that far out. You can't single-handedly reframe the debate in liberal terms, Dennis; you can only make yourself look like a crank. I wish it weren't so, but if wishes were horses beggars would get to eat horseburgers for a week or so.

Damn it, though, he's on my side, and he's maybe the only one on my side, and it's only because he's the only one on my side that his tactics can't actually work and bring some good to that pile of snivelling centrists and full-on lunatic right-wingers in Washington. It's hard not to feel for the guy.

Of course, is HCR only gets 216 (edit: 215) votes this week, I'll imagine I'll find not feeling for him a good deal easier...

[1] The range of political ideas considered "acceptable" or, worse, "Serious" by the population. The basic idea is that by having cranks on the fringe of your party, you can make your own ideas seem far more acceptable in comparison (Tomsk has noted before how successful this strategy has been for Republicans), and by increasing the volume of those cranks, one can pull the range of acceptable ideas towards your side. Kucinich's problem is that the Republicans have successfully branded far more centrist Democrats than he as moon-bat lunatic Communists, which means his ideas don't make anyone else's look more reasonable, other people's ideas thoroughly derided reasonable ideas make him look even more crazy.


Tomsk said...

It's great to have an idealist like Kucinich in a position of (some) power but he's crazy to vote against this bill. If he genuinely believes it is a step away from universal healthcare rather than towards it, then he's entitled to vote against it, but how can any sensible person come to that conclusion?

Incidentally have started up their UK election coverage (as should you! I'll guest blog it if you like...) - it's worth a look to see what the Americans make of our system, though so far I'm not convinced that they know what they're talking about...

SpaceSquid said...

That's pretty much my take on him as well. Part of the problem of being an idealist is you have to be very smart in how you pick your battles, and this one doesn't make sense to me. The most important thing about a protest vote is that you shouldn't make the thing you're protesting about worse. Lawyers, Guns & Money had a good post about this today.

I suspect that as we spool up to election time I'll get in the game, but as always I would be delighted to receive your wisdom to post up here.