I’ve never been more ashamed of the Democratic party than I am right now, watching the idiots in Congress piss away the opportunity to expand insurance coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans, to protect the insurance coverage of people who have preexisting conditions, to save Medicare by reducing the rate of medical inflation, and to lay the groundwork for a greater expansion of progressive policies down the road.
The election of Scott Brown changes nothing in the House, and very little in the Senate. House and Senate negotiators were working on merging the different health care bills, and there was hope that the result would have been better than the hash Ben Nelson made of the Senate bill. But there’s only so much the bill could change, as it was made into a hash precisely to attract a 60th vote. So the smart move was always for the House to pass the bill unchanged, then work up a separate bill down the road to fix its worst failures.
Scott Brown only reinforces that analysis. On a policy level, he’s to the left of Olympia Snowe on healthcare (he voted for the Massachusetts universal healthcare bill, which is more progressive than the Senate bill). But he sold his soul to the teabaggers during the campaign, and is unlikely to drop his anti-healthcare reform rhetoric so fast after being elected. So it’s back to courting Snowe, which will be harder now, and which would only make the bill worse.
So the alternative to passing the Senate bill out of the House, or to watering both bills down, is to pass nothing. House progressives seem willing to do that in hope of passing various parts of healthcare reform piecemeal, through a series of small votes. Moderate/conservative Democrats in Congress want to pass nothing because they are afraid that it will be easier for opponents to campaign against healthcare reform than to campaign for the bills on the table now.
Today’s Supreme Court ruling that corporations can spend unlimited amounts to advertise in campaigns can’t help matters. There’s plenty in the bills that you can sell to voters, especially voters who are worried about losing their jobs or losing their insurance due to preexisting conditions or financial hardship. But corporate America is pretty sure they can kill the bill, and will run campaigns against the bill. That scares moderate/conservative Democrats, but it should encourage them.
The current kerfuffle over Conan and Jay Leno tells us a lot about how those fights could play out. Five years ago, Conan was getting offers to move to a new network and do a show at 11:30 rather than 12:30. To hold onto him, NBC and Jay Leno agreed that Jay would step down from the Tonight Show in 2009 and that Conan would take over. Jay explained the situation quite clearly at the time. And it came to pass, but Jay didn’t want to quit. So NBC gave him a new show at 10 pm. It did poorly in the ratings, and NBC wanted to cancel the show, but Jay didn’t want to be canceled. To hold onto Jay, NBC decided to move Jay back to the Tonight Show’s timeslot. Conan felt like this was a breach of that 5 year old agreement, and the all late night shows have been picking sides in the ensuing battle.
Conan’s response was not to attack Jay, who quite clearly reneged on his own agreement (compare his clip from 5 years ago with this from last week). Conan aligned himself with the millions of Americans worried about losing their jobs. He made NBC the villain, the evil corporation that cares only about their bottom line, not the promises broken or the lives destroyed. His message – one enthusiastically taken up by Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel, and Dave Letterman – was that he had been treated unfairly, and that he just wanted what was right. This inspired a fairly massive pro-Conan movement, with over half a million people joining the “I’m With CoCo” Facebook group and turning out for rallies across the country.
If that many people can stand up to corporate dishonesty and amorality over a $45 million TV deal to save a show that people weren’t flocking to, surely we can get a movement behind actually saving lives by expanding health insurance.
And that’s the only way for Democrats to save themselves in November. All the Democrats worried about losing a seat over healthcare reform have already voted for it. If they think that someone can use a vote for healthcare reform against them, they already provided the ammo. The solution is to pass a bill and bank the good will gained by helping millions of Americans, then paint anyone who comes out against insuring millions of new Americans as out of touch, amoral, undeserving of America’s trust, and in the pocket of the amoral and indifferent corporations who caused the current economic crisis. In other words, be the Conan O’Brien to their Jay Leno. Conan will land on his feet, and so will Democrats.