Archives: Why Hasn’t There Been a Progressive March on DC?

This appeared at Huffington Post on December 20, 2009.

I’ve had my fill of gate-crashers whining about false dialectics. Whether we like it or not, last November was not a referendum on Senate rules or corporate personhood. Even the most gifted politician is not a superman with extra-constitutional powers. If you want more than what’s in the current health care bill, then start marching.

Two facts seem to have gotten lost in the calls for a do-over. First, this is not The Highlander, where “there can be only one.” It took three Constitutional Amendments to end slavery, and then two Civil Rights Acts and a bevy of Supreme Court decisions to end segregation. Where would we be if our forebears had stopped at Selma Bridge?

Second, and more immediate, you can’t have a workable public option without all the stuff that’s in the bill now: the exchanges, subsidies, and wonkish policy points. None of that can be passed using budget reconciliation.

Get that? To win a public option later, you need what’s in this bill — and that stuff can’t come through reconciliation rules.

I know, I know. We’re angry that even the slightest crumb, a mere expansion of Medicare, was snatched away by a naked hypocrite. We’re angry that Obama played the Washington game to win over special interests instead of ripping off his shirt like Dwayne Johnson and trashing the set with Ben Nelson’s bulbous face.

If you wanted the man to fart a green energy single-payer paradise out of his armpits, then welcome to reality: you start reform with the majority you have, not the one you would like to have or might have at a later time. I’m not being glib: all the oh noes about progressives sitting out of 2010 are really pissing me off. They have the tone of self-fulfilling prophecy. With new polls showing the “tea party” beats both GOP and Democrats, can anyone tell me how losing the Democratic majority serves reform?

In fact, that bit of news should wake up every last progressive out there. We’ve surrendered the democratic showcase to know-nothing outrage zombies. Why haven’t we turned out on the National Mall to demand a public option? What’s got us so timid (or lazy) that we want the president do our job for us?

And don’t tell me it isn’t your job. That is a giant crock of shit. Popular action is the very definition of democracy. It’s hard, it doesn’t happen without us, and it isn’t a human right upheld by some magic fairness-fairy. (Neither is health care — as conservatards never cease to remind us.) If the public option’s not in the bill, in part that’s because we haven’t shown up en masse to demand it.

It’s long past time time we showed our strength. Dick Armey and his Koch-funded astroturfers, who talk about stealing our act even though they suck at it, need to see what genuine grassroots activism looks like. Better yet, let’s answer their inflated crowd figures with an actual, massive crowd of progressives demanding a public option.

I don’t want to read comments about who “sold out” reform; that’s the natural state of the Beltway. People who moan and complain about it, but won’t bother to show up and demand change, are worse than useless. I want to see affirmative ideas about raising the progressive army that’s been missing in action throughout this process. Where the hell have we been?!

About Matt Osborne

Veteran blogging the culture wars from Alabama. Video journalist, mash-up artist, aspiring novelist, and metalhead. Expect bunnies, geekery, dark humor, and snarky empirical analysis to annoy idealists of all stripes. You can follow me on Twitter, but be ready 'cause it might get loud.
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