Progressives: All bark, no bite


spaceballHere is Peck’s Rule of Making Threats: Don’t make them. Either do what you’re going to do, assuming you’re able to do it. Or, shut up.

There are a lot of threats coming from progressives lately. Obama and the Democratic Congress had better not abandon the public health option, or there will be consequences, you hear?

Sorry, Uncle Nader, but I don’t think so.  If Max Baucus thought Montana voters would eject him from the Senate, he wouldn’t oppose the public option. It doesn’t matter what the East and West Coast liberal elites think. They didn’t vote Max into office, and they won’t be the ones voting him out.

I made this point over at the blog of Allison Kilkenny, TrueSlant’s progressive standard-bearer. A commenter named “Jasong” replied that Baucus has been well-funded by the health care industry, but  has lost the support of Montana voters, according to a Daily Kos poll.

So I looked at the poll myself. You know what caught my eye? 55 percent of Montana Democrats disapproved of their senator’s position on health care reform. 78 percent said they supported a public option.

Yet 69 percent rated Baucus as favorable. And – here’s the number that counts – when asked whether they would vote for Baucus if he opposed a public option, 36 percent of Democrats said they would not vote for him – but 52 percent said it would make no difference to their vote.

That’s right. The flagship issue of the Democratic Party, at a time when that issue is seared into the consciousness of most Americans – and half of Baucus’s Democratic constituents don’t give a damn. Or maybe they give a damn, but it won’t affect their vote, which in politics means pretty much the same thing. It’s 2009. And Baucus isn’t up for reelection until 2014. Pretend you’re Baucus, and ethics are just something you wear occasionally like a new tie. If you were a Senator whose sole ambition is to be reelected, and you had health lobby money on one hand and a spineless electorate on the other, what would you do?

So I’ll ask the question again. How are the progressives going to punish Blue Dog Democrats like Baucus. If you can’t punish him, then you have no control over him. If you have no control over him but you need his vote, what are you going to do?

Same thing for Obama. Abandon him if he abandons health care? Who is going to advance your agenda for you? Vote for the Green Party. That’ll teach him!

So if you really have a plan to nail Baucus & Co., and not just wishful thinking that the voters will arise and stick his head on a pike, then let’s hear it. Time to put up or shut up.

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27 Responses to Progressives: All bark, no bite

  1. andygeiger says:

    Ya know, i have seen you on this site for quite some time now, and while i have seen you throw rhetorical spit balls at several other contributors, i have yet to hear you construct or advance a point of your own that wasn’t pointing out what you perceive to be someone else’s shortcomings (and by default your superiority)

    What’s your plan, Peck?

  2. markbolton says:

    Sadly, this is true of most voters, not just those at either end of the spectrum. Ask people what they think about Congress and they’ll tell you it’s full of crooks who don’t really care about the people. Ask them about their own Congressman, and they’ll say, “Oh, he’s ok.” The fact is, most people play at politics like it’s a team sport and they will not leave their team no matter how much that team sucks! They go into the booth, look for the “R” or “D”, pull the levers and go home, satisfied that they’ve done their part.
    I haven’t voted for a D or R, in a general election, in nearly 20 years. Will I ever see a third party President? Probably not. But maybe, just maybe, if more people would do this we could pressure the two parties into pulling far enough apart that you could actually tell the difference between them.
    And if not – well, at least I had no part in rewarding those who choose to screw me over. We should vote for ideas and policies, not for people or paties. To do otherwise is to give the crooks the keys to your house.

  3. fleetlee says:

    Straight to the point; I love it. I do not understand why the Democrats always squander their opportunities by waiting for the “perfect solution” to come out of Congress. Progressives need to grow up this year and take what they can get in the way of insurance reform. The GOP is hoping to delay this into 2010 and kill any reform.

    • Michael Peck says:

      Thanks, Fleetlee. I don’t think Democrats suffer so much from perfectionism as utopianism. Utopianism is like the joke about Communism:

      How is Communism like the horizon?
      The closer you get, the more it recedes.

      I agree that the GOP would be happy to see health care reform delayed until next year, when Obama will be weaker and possibly the mid-term elections will give the Republicans more seats.

  4. Mr. Peck,

    I am unclear on what the point of your blog is. You seem to be saying that the Blue Dogs (and Mr. Obama) are completely immune to any pressure from progressives so progressives should give up and just take whatever scraps that fall from the table be happy. This really is not the case at all. Who even got health care reform on the agenda? It was not any Republican or blue dog, it was the result of years, decades really, of work by progressives. There is political momentum at the moment which every one is subject to, why should progressives surrender now that victory is closer than it ever has been? Mr. Baucus is going to want to move certain pieces of legislation through the congress between now and November 2014. Progressives can certain make that process much more difficult or easy. He may or may not face a democrat opponent in 2014.

    All of the above is predicated upon the assumption that I have correctly understood you posting which may not be the case. However, I for one have had enough experience in the world that lots of things that seem impossible can be achieved through political action and this is no different. Years ago I worked for the United Farm Workers union and if that experience taught me nothing else, the first step to victory is believing in victory. ¡SI, SE PUEDE!

    • Michael Peck says:

      I always enjoy reading your comments, David. But it’s important to remember the fine line between idealism and fanaticism. If you’re telling me that health care reform with a public option is the best alternative, I’ll agree will you. If you’re telling me that the only way to reform health care is a public option, then I’ll respectfully disagree with you. There are things we can do, like stopping insurers from dropping sick patients, that can make a meaningful difference right now.

      I really believe that progressives are underestimating how much they’ve accomplished so far. We wouldn’t be discussing health care reform if McCain had won. Yes, believing in victory is important. But it’s just as important not to believe you’re defeated just because you didn’t get everything your wanted.

      • andygeiger says:

        it’s important to remember the fine line between idealism and fanaticism.

        So wait, progressives are fanatical for being the only group in the United States that are insisting we have a way to compete against Health Insurance companies to drive costs down? I thought taking the fiscally conservative road was the domain of… Conservatives?

        I for one am glad that the crime of denial based on pre-existing condition is finally being dealt with; but, i am absolutely astounded that the one group of people in this country that want something that is in the best interests of the entire nation from a fiscal perspective are being shunt into the category of fanatics that are demanding too much?

        I feel like i’m in the Twilight Zone!

      • Michael Peck says:

        No, progressives are fanatics for insisting “that it’s my way or the highway.”

      • markbolton says:

        So what then are the Blue Dogs doing? Is it not the same? They’re saying, “no public option or we’re not staying on board.” Translation – “my way or the highway.”

        This is what Allison was writing about a few posts ago – It’s always the progressives who are seen as the obstacles and told to swallow hard for the greater good, “or else!” they’ll get no support from the party or President. Now, hopefully, some of them are saying enough is enough. Let the party put the heat on the conservative wing for a change.

        Like we’ve been saying all along, the public option is the compromise! If the Blue Dogs don’t like it, let them suffer the wrath of the party for once. Of course, that won’t happen because the party leadership and the President don’t want “change”.

      • andygeiger says:

        If Bush/Cheney can adopt that approach to lead us unilaterally into war predicated on a lie (WMD) then it’s more than fair that Obama et al use that approach to secure the health of the American people and our Economy.

      • Mr. Peck,

        You are creating a false dichotomy, no progressive that I know is saying “My way or the highway”. No one is saying “Single Payer” is the only option. Since the bill is not even written, why not struggle for the best option? Why give up before the fight has even begun? What people are saying is why give away the public option now?

      • libtree09 says:

        Can you really be serious? This is flat out laughable, do you have the memory of a fly? My way or the highway…com’on think back where have we heard that before? JFK? Carter? Clinton?

      • libtree09 says:

        I’m with you…this is defensible…for christ’s sake WalMart is in favor of this…for years republicans have been complaining our auto companies can’t compete and when we try to take the burden off them and spread it through out the system they scream like little girls. And who do they hide behind? Friggin nut fringe out there who don’t vote and hate the government, any government. The right used to have a good argument…one they won and blew completely.

      • Mr. Peck,

        The difference is that you are saying progressives should give up the fight before it has even begun? As any negotiator will tell you, you start out by asking not for what you want but much more, then you settle for what you need. You are assuming that we are going to loose and we should just settle for the bare minimum before we have even got to he negotiating table.

  5. iskid2astop says:

    Why Baccus won’t get voted out, is because healthcare is not the most important issue. No one is a single-issue voter on healthcare.

  6. libtree09 says:

    What will progressives do? Seems big business and republicans and blue dogs have us by the short hairs. Well I guess I’ll just give in to them so the conservatives can scream and lie about how they defeated the socialist president. Yeah, that’s the ticket, give in and win. That’ll show em. Yeah lets make the Joe Kleins of the world happy by triangulation.

    Except that is not how this progressive was taught to deal with big mouth bullies. You fight and do some damage, if you lose, you lose…the point is to stand up to anyone who lies to you, who thinks they can push you around. There is no dishonor in defeat if it was a fight worth fighting. Repubicans want appeasement and I for one am not giving it.

    Your argument lays claim that the voter has no power. Well Hillary Clinton is not the president, nor is John McCain and every year that passes brings another progressive closer to voting age.

    The first crack in the Health Care battle took place in 1965 when Johnson made Truman’s plan a reality. Single payer health care for the aged.
    How did he do it, by compromising? No he let it go to a filibuster and so should Obama. A fight on the floor that attracts all the nation’s attention, that focuses on the reality of America’s health care and lets the republicans and blue dogs explain their support for the current system. All these polls mean shit at this point in time.

    You want to compromise with these lying corporate lapdogs and their horde of loons it is your business but in doing so you prop up and give succor to the worse in our society.

    Me, I have more than eight years of the lunatics running the asylum of Washington and the results have been disastrous. I want a piece of these assholes, I want to rumble.

    • Michael Peck says:

      Well, as a student of military history, I’d have to say that if you’ve been fighting for universal health care for 60 years and you haven’t won yet, then just maybe there’s something wrong with your approach?

      I’d be careful with the fight-the-bully analogy. Seems to me that there are plenty of bullies on the left. But they bully with a smile and tell you it’s for your own good, so that makes it okay.

      • libtree09 says:

        Well as a student of history may I remind you that it took the west a number of years to defeat Soviet Communism…persistence can pay off…and as a student of history how can you deny the bullying tactics of the Bush and Cheney and the far right? Name your left wing bullies and lets compare. It is not ideological purity…if it was we would be fighting for single payer but we are not…seems to me you have a very thin skin. I am not a patsy never have been never will be…I do not like your low handed insinuation of my party, my beliefs or my courage. I really don’t give a shit how long it takes to get health care…I’m not going anywhere.

  7. Michael Peck says:

    So in other words, Mark, the conservatives are bullies, the progressives are fed up with being patsies, so they’re now gonna be bullies too?

    I know Republicans don’t give a damn about health care as long as they can stop the Democrats. I’m wondering if the progressives really care about health care more than ideological purity.

    But that was point of my blog. If you’re going to play rough, then play rough. Tell me how you’re going to make the Republicans and Blue Dogs pay for opposing the public option. Because so far, I’m not seeing it.

    • markbolton says:

      No, I’m not saying we should be bullies. I’m saying the Democrats should stand up to the bullies! As to your playing rough question – the answer is simple and some of us have been saying it all along. The Democratic Party should play rough with Blue Dogs in the same way they always play rough with the progressives.

      The Party should, for the first time in far too many years, tell the Blue dogs that being a Democrat is going to mean something again and they can either get on board, or the Party will not give them the support they need in their next election. Why is it always the RIGHT thing to do when it’s directed at the progressives, and yet it’s “bullying” to ask that it be the Blue Dogs’ turn to take one for the team or find another team? None of the pragmatists here seem to be able to answer that.

      Here’s what really gets me – If a large group of progressives hadn’t supported him early on, namely the anti-war crowd, Obama’s campaign might never have gotten off the ground in the first place! And they’re supposed to just shut up now that he’s in office?!? Fuck that!

  8. Michael Peck says:

    Seems to me you’re the one who can use a little memory enhancement, Libtree. Perhaps you’ve forgotten this letter from the leaders of the House Progressive Caucus ( You’ll notice that Woolsey and Grijalva both state that they will not vote for a health bill that does not include a public option.

    In other words, all or nothing. Or to quote the famous thespian Patrick Swayze, “my way or the highway.”

    • markbolton says:

      For the last time, it’s not “all or nothing” – it’s “reasonable compromise or nothing!” And that is what the public option is!

    • libtree09 says:

      Well you have me there.

      Now lets look on the other side and consider that no republican voted for the health care bill, the majority of which they like. Now lets go over to the Senate…maybe one vote…if the public option is out…whose way or the highway?

      Let’s put it this way if the democrats throw out the public option…their biggest negotiation chip…at the beginning of the bargaining…what exactly does the other side offer. Co-ops out….trigger…out…do taxpayers whose will police the mandatory insurance and pay for it have any say in how your tax dollars are spent?

      I will bet you that if the public option is dropped not a single republican will vote for it. They’ll all be walking down their own small highway.

      If you want to defend the insurance companies and the status quo fine. And by the way it would be interesting to find out just what Swayze, a cancer victim thinks of all this.

  9. libtree09 says:

    Okay Peck my wife just yelled at me again for not proofing my copy…and she heard some clanking sound outside and I said it’s Peck thinking and she yells about the air conditioner again and so I got to go deal with it but anyway I’m thinking about this thing we are talking about, I mean this serious discourse on history and all and thought well, hell how would the right think about the highway thing if a lefty had attacked their position and a republican tawking point came to mind…I mean why not one vote for health care…seems stubborn to me, seems weird lockstep Gingrich discipline but no, damn it, to them it is a principled stance…caricature, no sorry character matters…it is a joint mind set of individual concern for American values of the Marlboro man…
    So I offer to you that the progressives stance, is a firm westward looking frontier like tough stance of helping that poor rancher who barn was burned down by that city folk guy trying to buy the land for the railroad…that we are trying to work together to rebuild that barn, gather up the stock, and fight them damn corporate land grabbers, them easterners with fancy silk and wool blend suits bent on screwing us poor folk with Walmart cotton shirts and pants from China sweat shops, with their lies and bought politicians.

    What we want to do is form us a Grange, a way to fight the railroad and the eastern cowboys. Yeah, that’s what we can do…join together…and settle the west, civilize the crazy frontier.

    So that’s the progressive position…how else to fight these powerful eastern ranchers and the railroad that cuts into our profits by dictating rates…yeah…so these progressives fought for their principles…yeah so we are voting on our principles and for the little guy, the poor guy suffocating under the eastern elite.

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