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Are Progressives "Special Interests Who've Prevented Health Care Reform for Decades"?

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"By standing up to the special interests -- who've prevented reform for decades, and who are furiously lobbying against it now -- the Senate has moved us closer to reform." - President Obama, 12/21/09

The Lieberman-gutted Senate health care legislation is a major win for the insurance and drug companies. That's not to say there aren't some good things in the bill, but even bill proponents who are honest about things will acknowledge this bill is great for the health industry. Indeed, this is why the insurance industry is now screaming "We win!"

This might explain why AHIP, the chief lobbying apparatus for the insurance industry, doesn't appear to be against this bill. It explains why the drug industry isn't airing ads against this bill. It explains why the Chicago Tribune reports that other health industry lobbyists have been writing this kind of bill and advocating for it from the beginning. In short, the drug/insurance industry does not seem to be "furiously lobbying" against this bill - they seem to be doing the opposite.

So that raises a question: When the president pats himself on the back for "standing up to the special interests -- who've prevented reform for decades, and who are furiously lobbying against" the Lieberman-gutted bill, who exactly is he referring to? (It might be nice if a reporter actually asked the White House this simple question - and noted that the health industry special interests are not "furiously lobbying" against this bill). Because by logical deduction, when you consider the fact that the insurance and drug industries aren't "furiously lobbying" against this bill - and in many ways have been "furiously lobbying" for it - it seems the president is actually referring to progressive groups like Firedoglake, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, women's health advocacy organizations and the labor movement - that is, major portions of what we call the American Left.

These are some of the organizations that are "furiously lobbying" against the Lieberman-gutted bill - not against real health care reform, mind you, but specifically against the Lieberman-gutted bill. And they are doing so because large portions of that particular bill are a massive giveaway to the health industry that reform nothing. Does that make these organizations evil "special interests" who have "prevented health care reform for decades"?

This is an important inquiry, and I mean it in all seriousness. The Obama White House chose to make common cause with the real "special interests" - the Big Money industries and lobbyists who most Americans think of when they hear the term "special interests." You can debate whether that was smart politics or not, but it's a fact (as just one example, look at their wholly corrupt alliance with the drug industry on importation). In doing so, this White House has triangulated against progressives in a pretty blatant way - to the point now where the president seems to be brazenly calling us obstructionist "special interests."

It's an important watershed moment because it tells us exactly how this White House looks at the progressive movement and the Democratic Party base - not just as a mere annoyance, but as a problem the administration must courageously "stand up" to and crush. I can't say I'm surprised by their worldview, considering who Obama chose to staff his administration with - but I am surprised by the president effectively coming right out and telling us that's his worldview.

Hey, at least we know the truth - and, as G.I. Joe once said, knowing is half the battle.

That said, most of the country probably thinks Obama is referring to Big Money interests (insurance companies/PhRMA, etc.) when he refers to "special interests." The problem with that, of course, is how the framing sets the parameters for the overall health care debate moving forward.

As I said in a post yesterday, fulfilling the short-term goal of making this final bill better and the long-term goal of forcing Congress to come back and fix whatever passes requires progressives to mount as much progressive opposition to this bill, so as to create political pressure for progressive reforms. But if this bill is successfully framed as some bold, populist taking-on-the-special-interests success, it will make that progressive political pressure harder to mount because the country will be led to believe we've already "stood up to the special interests" - when, in fact, if you apply the real definition of "special interests" (ie. corporate interests) and not the fake one (special interests=progressives), exactly the opposite happened.