Friday, December 25, 2009

Healthcare today and the 2007-2008 Democratic primary

In his column Friday, Krugman writes re healthcare:
Many people deserve credit for this moment. What really made it possible was the remarkable emergence of universal health care as a core principle during the Democratic primaries of 2007-2008 — an emergence that, in turn, owed a lot to progressive activism. (For what it’s worth, the reform that’s being passed is closer to Hillary Clinton’s plan than to President Obama’s). This made health reform a must-win for the next president. And it’s actually happening.
Yeah, let's not forget that. I mean, we could also point out the promises Obama broke on this and other issues. But let's not miss the history of what the grassroots did.

It was a darn good thing that the Democratic candidates were in a contested primary, battling it out for the party base's support. As Krugman wrote at the time, he considered Edwards' plan the best, followed closely by Clinton, with Obama somewhat further back. And he argued that the plans were only as good as they were because Edwards had set a high bar.

It makes me think back to something Naomi Klein and Jeremy Scahill wrote in March 2008:
There is no question that the Bush administration has proven impervious to public pressure. That's why it's time for the anti-war movement to change tactics. We should direct our energy where it can still have an impact: the leading Democratic contenders.

Many argue otherwise. They say that if we want to end the war, we should simply pick a candidate who is not John McCain and help them win: We'll sort out the details after the Republicans are evicted from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Some of the most prominent anti-war voices--from to the magazine we write for, The Nation--have gone this route, throwing their weight behind the Obama campaign.

This is a serious strategic mistake. It is during a hotly contested campaign that anti-war forces have the power to actually sway U. S. policy. As soon as we pick sides, we relegate ourselves to mere cheerleaders.
In the case of healthcare, had it simply been Clinton or Obama in control of the primary from the beginning with no challenge, and with no Edwards, we'd probably be in a much worse situation today than where we are.


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