SteveM and I were having this argument somewhere, but I can't find it, about when and how Obama could have used the left to get a better bill. Its not that I thought that Howard Dean was all that, or had any armies or followers, but that the very presence of a strong voice on (as it now turns out, the left) pulls the discussion away from the purely rightist dialogue. It makes a difference whether you have Democrats like Landrieu being forced to fight for the bill against the aggressive left, or whether you have Democrats like Landrieu being courted by the far right. In any event, we know now they didn't use the left to pull the debate left and make Obama's health care reform the "mid point" between socialism and capitalism because they didn't want health care reform to get even that close to a good bill. They preferred to have the battle be between the center and the far right.
MSNBC paired Howard Dean with Mary Landrieu on a health care segment last night on Hardball, which had the curious effect of forcing Landrieu -- a red state Dem who's been a hard sell on reform -- to be a staunch advocate of the Senate bill, which Dean wants to see killed for being insufficiently progressive. It made for a very interesting dynamic and compelling TV as a sitting Democratic senator and the previous chair of the DNC hashed it out.
I've given up the woulda/shoulda/coulda debate. I think its very, very, very, clear at this point that, as Jane Hamsher argued, we couldn't have gotten a better bill because Obama and Rahm didn't want a better bill. They wanted the Senate Finance Bill, more or less, and they threw the fight and blew the opportunities they did have, such as they were, to get it. The anger that arises from this realization isn't, as Talking Points Memo's letter would have it "primal" as in "emotional" or somehow not rational--the anger is foundational, embedded in very good understanding of just how terrible this capitulation by our President is for us as a country and as a party and as a people.
For the really depressed among us, go read thereisnospoon, and then come back. Did you read it? Because it basically lays it out--from now on it has to be war to the knife with Obama and the corporatist Dems. I'm not recommending leaving the party. And I'm not recommending not voting. We have to do both. But we have to go back to Dean's fifty state strategy--his "get yourself elected dogcatcher" and "member of the school board" strategy. Because there isn't going to be any hero riding in on a wave of popular enthusiasm and actually doing anything for the people. I think Obama has made that abundantly clear. Either he can't, or he won't. Either way the big discussion about who or what Obama really is has to stop--what matters going forward is what we can force him, the Senate, and the House to do for us. And that begins, as thereisnospoon argues, with creating parallel organizations, voices, and propaganda outlets to push our policies until they become inevitable.*
*Steve and I and others have had ongoing discussions about whether "the Democrats" as in the entire party could have done more to shift the public dialogue to make a good public option, or medicare for all, an unstoppable part of this bill. I really believe they could have--they just didn't bother because they didn't want to. Things that they should have done, and could have done for very little money (really, very little all things considered) would be to have sponsored *all through the summer and august* free health clinics around the country, filmed them, passed out voter registration cards, collected names, and put together a pressure group of people without insurance, or with fragile insurance to fight for the bill publicly with their local representatives.