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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Quo Vadimus?

So Dennis Kucinich finally flipped his vote.  I agree with him on a number of things: HCR is a civil rights issue, single-payer is our ultimate solution, and we must keep fighting.  I'm disappointed that he did not have the strength to hold firm (would I in similar circumstances?) in his opposition of HR3590 and stymie Obama's efforts to pass something he declare victory over so he can move on.

Just as when Bernie voted for the Senate bill, I disagree with Dennis' tactical and strategic assessment, but I understand his reasoning and political calculus, and don't condemn him.  I think even with his Aye, he has done yeoman's work in moving the Overton window and given us a foundation for the rest of our efforts.  No matter what the fate of the bill, as I've said before, we have lots to do, so there's no point in skullfucking good progressives because we differ on one particular piece of legislation when we share the same goals.

Which brings me to The FDL Inaction Pups' With Us Or Agin Us Pledge (sorry, but I need some catharsis and I've been "bipartisan" for too damn long).  Scores of Prog Caucus members signed onto The Pledge and ultimately got money for their good behavior, including DK.  Now there is much gnashing of teeth over The Great Progressive Betrayal and demands for donations to be returned (which Kucinich is doing).

Tactically, the whole thing is rather silly.  I wasn't enamored of The Pledge, but went along with it last August when I saw a chance for some mobilization and escalation.  I wrote at the time of our group lobbying under the auspices of Credo/FDL:

[Green Mountain Daily's odum] kicked things off, pressing Rep Welch to pledge that he will not vote for any healthcare reform legislation that excludes a strong public option...Peter was predictably unconvinced, being not only a politician but also the guy who worked hard in committee for a lot of improvements to the flawed HR3200.

Really, I do appreciate his point(s).  We differ on tactics, though the outcome we all want is the same.  Still, pushing the pledge is a useful exercise.  The pledge is a tool that we can use to lay out our desired result and demand a line be drawn in the proverbial sand regarding a strong public option.  It fostered some constructive dialog, and the process continues.

If we get too wrapped up in tactical arguments, we miss the strategic opportunity of the moment.  Peter doesn't want to be hamstrung by a rather binary commitment.  We want to know he will not settle for a bullshit compromise with the Blue Dog that sets back reform.  Somewhere our goals intersect and we play in the margins of what's the best way to push the nut forward.

Faithful readers of my eleventy million blogs might recall that I am a big fan of pledges and petitions and email campaigns as starting points, and don't see them as very powerful methods of persuasion or even really forms of action in that, you know...active sense.  Low-intensity and fundamentally passive, these tools are wonderful ways to issue demands and promise further passionate work to back them up, but rarely in important struggles will they win the day.  Consider them the due diligence that you must engage in before you start a revolution.

So last summer, even though it was several months later than I'd agitated for a real push for HCR via direct action, I was rather hopeful that this was the beginning of a strategic campaign of escalation.  I renewed my attempts to contact people across the lefty spectrum, trying to get people to consider a variety of methods we could bring to bear to force the issue.

But we collectively spun our wheels, lost momentum, and having no follow up to The Pledge and other tools, they became ends unto themselves and even cudgels to whack good progressives who disagreed on tactics.  As kestrel9000 so aptly observed:

Eventually, Jane Hamsher, you will have thrown so many people under the bus, there will be no one left to drive it.

So, Driver NTodd, where ya takin' us, you might be asking.  Well, here's an old draft itinerary:

I would not presume to have the best plan without people engaging in constructive debate about such things, but I have frequently outlined it thus:

Start with petitions and e-mail campaigns issuing the demand for HR676 and specifying a collective response in the event of capitulation (which we've seen piecemeal with SP becoming PO, Stupak, loss of PO, Section 1332, etc), to include withdrawal of support from incumbent Democrats in primaries and general elections and the following:
    • Weekly vigils in front of local Congressional and insurance offices.
    • Coordinated national marches in state capitals and/or major cities.
    • Weekend march in DC in conjunction with mass lobbying on the Hill.
    • Boycotts (at least secondary targets like cable companies if not riskier focus on primary targets like ins cos).
    • "Sick-in" strikes.
    • Weekday marches in DC and around the nation, mass lobbying, and civil disobedience.

At this point, our demands have been issued but few significant threats were made. For example, Labor promised to not support Dems in 2010 until they got the Caddy tax compromise protecting their constituency. So the divide and conquer plan has worked as we've allowed an already watered down compromise get compromised further, with bribes thrown to a variety of groups to win their buy-in while others were marginalized.

So now I'm more of the mind that we have to leap right into economic intervention, maybe with mass lobbying on Congressional delegations in-district and at the Capitol, another march or set of marches, and civil disobedience thrown in to get visuals.

I was asked earlier today what my "nuclear option" might be, and I honestly don't know, though I've discussed electoral boycotts and secession.  Both of those, however, would be last resorts brought to bear not just over HCR, but the wider systemic problems we face of which HR3590 is but a symptom, and require a lot more skin than we've put into the game thus far.

Anyway, whatever happens with this specific bill, the struggle continues.  We have to conduct an honest post mortem and be ready to work with Bernie, Dennis, Earl, et al, to forge ahead so another generation doesn't have to wait for universal healthcare.  We don't have a precise roadmap at this point--personally I'm refocusing my energies on Vermont's single-payer efforts--but I think it's clear where we're going from here.

Come on, baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus


PS--Original cartoon stolen from Cartoon Stock.

March 17, 2010 in Why We Fight | Permalink


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So,Dennis Kucinich, ate the shit sandwich.

Now the only one left is Bernie Sanders.

Is he as straight as I think he is or is he just another pufferoney?

Posted by: Need a kind word | Mar 18, 2010 12:40:07 AM

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