10/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

A Moment's Silence for the Public Option

President Obama shocked his overly trusting base this week when he announced that he has no intention of addressing the public option debate in his prime time speech to Congress on September 9. Pro and anti-reform protesters are waging epic battles in town halls, and yet the Progressives' General has "no plans to insist on [the public option] himself," according to Politico. It looks like the reason Obama can so coolly omit the popular public option is because the initiative is dead, and has been dead for quite a while, and there's no reason to mention something that will not be in the final bill.

To soothe Progressives, Congressional representatives like Ben Nelson are using an invented term called the "trigger" to create the illusion of a public option that may exist at some point in the future. The public option will not be part of health care reform, but should the insurance companies "fail" (again, whatever that means) at self-reform, then this failure would act as a "trigger" or catalyst for an eventual public option. "A public option as a fallback position is a concept I think that could be acceptable," Nelson says, "If it's a cooperative under certain circumstances that might be acceptable."

To be clear: a "trigger option" means the public option does not exist, and it will not exist until an undefined series of events occur whereupon the public option -- which has not been explained or outlined -- will magically pop into existence. This isn't a compromise. It's an insult. Nelson's claim is like robbers explaining to a bank's manager that they're temporarily borrowing the money, plan to invest it, and will return the loot (plus interest) at some undefined future date. Only a sucker (or maybe Ben Bernanke or Hank Paulson) would take such a scurrilous group at their word, so please excuse Progressives if they don't believe Ben Nelson, or President Obama, when they say, "Sorry, folks, no public option, but this new mysterious deal is much, much better."

It appears as if Congress and the president either don't remember what they were fighting for, or aren't interested in achieving it any longer. Cenk Uygur raises a critical point today when he states, "Without a public option, this whole thing is a joke." Passing reform without the public option is not only a joke, but it's an insult to all the Progressives, health advocates, activists, doctors, and nurses, who fight for a public option precisely because they know it's the only path to meaningful health care reform.

Watered down bills, hybrids, triggers, and so-called "compromises" (tantamount to full surrender) are all window-dressing for a Democratic president and Democratically-controlled Congress capitulating to a fringe mob of radicals and coterie of corporate insurance and pharmaceutical companies by killing the public option.

Uygur argues that the Progressives should vote no on Obama's health care bill if it doesn't include a public option, and I agree. If Democrats buckle on the public option, not only will Republicans feel buoyed up by the surrender, but Democrats will lose all credibility with their base. They will permanently become the Party of Surrender, and the health care reform disaster will infect all future areas of contentious policy. The death of the public option will mean the death of the Democrats.

Cross-posted from Allison Kilkenny's blog. Also available on Facebook and Twitter.