Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I'm going to say this as carefully as I can, and probably still piss you off:

We are making a mistake if we conclude that the measure of how much fight is left in Obama and the Democrats is how hard they work to salvage health care legislation.

I'm not saying they shouldn't try. I'm saying that it's not the best way to win back independent voters -- and, frankly, it's not necessarily the most progressive thing to do. In fact, moving forward on a strong jobs bill and real Wall Street reform would be more progressive than scrambling to salvage a compromised, watered-down health bill -- and I believe that it would be more impressive to persuadable independents.

I see David Axelrod's point:

"We need to move forward aggressively, continuing on job creation, and on financial regulatory reform," White House senior adviser David Axelrod told the Huffington Post. "But we should finish health care because the caricature of that bill is there and everyone who voted for it will have to live with that. The way to deal with that is to pass the bill and let people see... the value of it."

So, yes, there's a good reason to go forward. And not going forward would make Democrats look even weaker.

But dragging through this process for another few months also risks making Democrats look weaker. And clearly Democrats have simply given up on winning the messaging war -- what Axelrod is arguing is that Dems simply can't defeat the caricature except by having the bill in effect as law. Which means that until at least some provisions are in effect, Democrats are still going to be seen as defying the majority of Americans (because most Americans don't understand the bill but are sure that it sucks).

You'll say that Democrats should pass a stronger bill in pieces through reconciliation. But if they do that in the absence of a fight to win the messaging war, they're still going to seem as if they're defying the will of the people. If they do that, they need to learn how to sell the damn provisions better.

The left blogosphere is going to define strength as sticking with health care, and define weakness as any pivot whatsoever. But a pivot to truly progressive financial and jobs legislation would be popular and progressive and a manifestation of strength and resolve. Whereas a grubby, desperate fight to save compromised health care legislation might be none of those things.

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