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David Sirota Headshot

A Village Fairy Tale: Coming From a Pro-Gun State Explains Health Care Opposition

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I just want to make a really important point that we all need to remember about the so-called "Blue Dogs" and "conservative Democrats" who are working their asses off to prevent real health care reform. It's a point I think everyone is forgetting -- one that a few folks are, in fact, trying to make us forget.

The Villagers in the D.C. media (ie. the power-worshiping pundits and journalists who preen around the nation's capital telling the Rest of Us what to think) continue to claim that "Blue Dogs" and "conservative Democrats" come from "moderate districts," and this is supposed to clearly explain their opposition to health care reform and progressive taxation to pay for said health care reform. These Democrats are just representing their culturally conservative constituents who not only like guns and hate abortion, but allegedly love the health-insurance companies so much they are threatening an electoral backlash against legislators who refuse to act like health-industry harlots!

If you've turned on a television, radio or computer, or if you are one of the few beloved souls still reading newspapers (god bless ya!), then you've been subjected to this meme repeatedly over the last few weeks. And this meme is propaganda at its worst -- or, propagandists might say, at its best.

Polls have long shown us the country is basically unified in support of progressive economic positions. Indeed, there have been so many polls showing Americans strongly supporting universal government-sponsored health care, more progressive taxation, fairer trade deals, a Wall Street crackdown and an end to grotesque bailout-ism that I'm frankly sick of linking to all of them so much.

If, as the irritating red-versus-blue storyline goes, we are a divided nation at all, we are divided on a few select hot-button cultural issues (guns, god, gays, yadda yadda ... we've all heard it before). So sure, when Villagers in D.C. portray a senator like Max Baucus (D-MT) as representing his state's fondness for guns when he votes against gun control, that's an accurate portrayal. But when Villagers depict Baucus, who represents one of the poorest states in the country, as opposing real health care reform because he's from a "conservative state" and is merely forwarding along his constituents alleged desire for insurance-industry shilling, that's a lotta horseshit. It's just covering for a guy who makes his name as lobbyists' favorite manwhore at the Capitol brothel.

It's the same for "Blue Dog" Democrats from Appalachia and the rural South (and also, by the way, for Republicans from these same regions) -- when they differ with Obama on cultural issues, it's probably because their constituents differ with Obama on cultural issues. But when they differ with him on a core economic issue like, say, taking on the health insurance vipers and reforming the system, they are, for the most part, shitting all over those same constituents.

What's really going on is this: "Blue Dogs" and "conservative Democrats" tend to represent swing states and districts -- that is, states and districts that are among the very few that aren't gerrymandered and therefore actually play host to competitive elections. Because of this, their re-election races tend to be especially expensive, which means these politicians have to raise a shit-ton of cash for television ads. How, pray tell, do career politicians raise a shit-ton of cash? They trade their votes and legislative maneuvers for corporate campaign money, most of it coming from special interests in Washington who have little to no grassroots support/connection to the politician's state/district. The special-interest, D.C.-centric nature of these bribes is only enhanced by the fact that many of the "Blue Dog" and "conservative Democratic" districts/states are rather poor, meaning the money-sucking politicians are all but compelled to rely on out-of-state cash for their warchests.

All of this creates a closed circuit that serves the status quo. A "conservative Democratic" politician from a swing state needs to raise millions to finance a competitive campaign. There's not a lot of loose money lying around the district, considering the recession and the destitution of the very kind of district the "conservative Democrat" comes from. So the "conservative Democrat" ends up relying on money from D.C. special interests like, say, health insurers -- interests that are largely hated in the "conservative Democrat's" state and have little grassroots connection to the state. That money then buys House and Senate votes that prevent stuff like health care reform that would most benefit the constituents of economically struggling states like the "conservative Democrat's" state.

In the end, because of this kind of transaction, the state remains destitute, and the politician remains in office, keeps raising out-of-state cash, and keeps insisting with a shit-eating grin that it's crazy -- just crazy! -- for anyone to think their votes could be influenced by millions of dollars. Meanwhile, the cycle starts right over on whatever new economic issue is coming down the pike -- all while the fuckstick Villagers in D.C. use euphemisms like "conservative Democrats" and "moderate districts" to explain it all away with an absurd storyline that insists because a politician comes from a state that likes guns, loves Jesus and/or hates gay people, he has to oppose health care reform.

This is the swamp of propaganda and corruption that passes for "democracy." At least we can be aware of it, and stop pretending rank-and-file voters' cultural conservatism automatically means they want their congressman to be an economic corporatist.

NOTE: Make sure to check out this piece by Kaiser Health News about Blue Dog Rep. Mike Ross's (D-AR) town begging him to stop trying to thwart health care reform. This is exactly what I'm talking about in this post.