David Sirota with a really insightful piece on the forces opposing progressive reform. Please note: as he points out, Blue Dogs are not actually constrained by their constituents. It's all about the money!
The health care debate has reminded us that there really are three separate but coordinated armies that defend the status quo in Washington - and will defend that status quo, whether on health care or any other economic issue. In my newspaper column today, I look at who these factions are, and what their motives are. You can read the column here.
In a nutshell, you have the Land Rover Liberals, many coming from the 14 out of 25 wealthiest congressional districts that Democrats now represent. Right now, their opposition to health care and tax reform is being led by Boulder, Colorado Rep. Jared Polis (D).
You also have the Corrupt Cowboys - those lawmakers from very poor, mostly Southern and Western parts of the country. These people give themselves Americana sounding nicknames like "Blue Dog Democrats" or "Main Street Republicans" so as to pretend their opposition to health care comes from their being down home guys "representin' the folks back home." Of course, these same lawmakers are among the most rapacious corporate fundraisers and lobbyist-connected insiders in Congress. And as I pointed out yesterday, there's no evidence that the districts and states the Corrupt Cowboys represent despise health reform by virtue of the fact that they are culturally conservative bastions. In fact, Nate Silver says there's exactly the opposite evidence:
There's not really any evidence that health care reform is unpopular in the Blue Dog districts. Although there are exceptions, most of the Blue Dog districts are fairly poor. A Quinnipiac poll released earlier this month suggested that while 53 percent of voters overall think "think it's the government's responsibility to make sure that everyone in the United States has adequate health care", 61 percent of voters making under $50,000 do. Also, while Quinnipaic did not break out the results for moderate and conservative Democrats, which are plentiful in these Districts, one can reasonably infer them. In this poll, 79 percent of liberals agreed with the statement as did 77 percent of Democrats -- not a very big difference. Since almost all liberals are Democrats and about half of all Democrats are liberals, that suggests that support for health care reform among non-liberal Democrats is something like 75 percent.
Thus, the story about the honest, god-fearing, good ol' boy cowboys opposing health care reform out of representational obligation has only been able to become conventional wisdom through the Millionaire Media - the elite national press corps, chock full of very wealthy people, that disseminates the most pernicious kind of anti-reform propaganda. These are the same people who insisted we should immediately rush $12 trillion in bailout cash out to Wall Street speculators, and who now insist that 64 years of debates over a $1 trillion health care proposal is inappropriately "rushing" health care reform. They are also the voices who are actually deriding health care reform as an inhumane proposal to legislatively waterboard the poor, persecuted richest one percent.
In the column, I look at the motives of all these groups, and give President Obama huge props for taking them on. As a sometime critic of Obama, I really think he's doing a fantastic job right now, and the news this morning from the New York Times that "the president planning trips across the country" to campaign for health care reform is just fantastic. He's going to have to take on the three groups I discuss in my column - and if he can beat them, we're going to get universal health care.