I have a deep, dark secret to admit. I am a hopemonger. During the presidential primary one of the first things to sway me toward Obama (and I was on the Obama bus earlier than most, pretty much from the day the man announced his campaign) was the idea, espoused by many early Obama supporters, that the man could bring together both sides in a way Hillary Clinton could not. That Obama would be able to navigate the vicious, reef-filled, shark-infested waters of Washington in a bright, clean ship, unburdened by the accumulated decades of bilge and barnacles that would hamper the U.S.S. Clinton.
That wasn't my only reason for supporting Obama, of course. I had many. Foremost among them was that I thought he could energize the voters, especially the otherwise apathetic middle, and win the election. But the idea that Obama could lead to a more bipartisan atmosphere in Washington was certainly an early attraction.
Boy, was I wrong.
Glen Greenwald recently wrote, somewhat scathingly, but correctly, about this pie-eyed belief of some Obama supporters in a post a few days ago, in which he mentioned:
...the apparently genuine belief/hope of many Obama supporters -- alive as recently as a few months ago -- that, unlike Hillary Clinton, Obama would be a unifying figure who would cause the country to transcend its divisions and leave behind its bitter ideological disagreements (the Post-Partisan Age). I would hope that even the Truest Believer of that promise could now recognize that -- even if such an outcome were desirable -- no such thing was ever going to happen.
So, now that Max Baucus has finally announced that the Finance Committee's bill is ready to be voted on in committee -- and not a single Republican among the committee in general or even among the three in his Gang of Six (Chuck Grassley, Mike Enzi and Olympia Snowe) stood by him in support -- can we finally be done with all this bipartisanship tripe?
The Republicans were never going to support a health-care reform bill. They have too much to lose. As I wrote here at HuffingtonPost back in June, the Republicans have to oppose any real health-care reform simply out of self-preservation. Not to mention that the GOP (and the Democrats to a lesser but still overwhelming degree, though that's the subject for another blog), is entirely beholden to their corporate funders. Between doing the bidding of their corporate overlords and keeping their own place at the feeding trough that is Washington, there was never any hope that the Republicans would support health-care reform.
Indeed, some of those very Republican senators in the Gang of Six showed their cards back in August's town-hell-meeting nightmare of mean-stupid depravity. As Huffingtonpost's Ryan Grim wrote in an Aug. 26 article, Enzi "told a Wyoming town hall crowd that he had no plans to compromise with Democrats and was merely trying to extract concessions." The Billings Gazette interview Grim linked to was rife with Enzi quotes like, "If I hadn't been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care."
Meanwhile, Chuck Grassley carried out the expected GOP maneuver given the idiocy of August. While still negotiating in the Gang of Six, he also demanded that Obama publicly renounce the public option to show he was serious about health-care reform, according to this interview in the Washington Post.
It was a classic bait-and-switch. The GOP claims it wants bipartisan health-care reform. Then, through astroturf organizations like Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, it gins up an ill-informed, mouth-breathing backlash. Then, it acts shocked at all of this "populist" rage, and so it says that health-care reform must be scaled way back or abandoned completely. After all, it's what the people want, right?
The Democrats have to realize that this has been the plan all along. No Republican has ever negotiated in good faith on this issue, period. Indeed, Max Baucus, in his insistence on bipartisan reform, is almost entirely responsible for the brain-cell-killing month of deathers and birthers we have had to endure. Without him, we had two bills -- the Senate's HELP committee bill, and the House's tri-committee bill. Both are similar, and could have been worked out in conference after passing the HELP bill in the Senate through budget reconciliation. Both were ready to go before the August recess.
But noooooooo. Max Baucus had to have his own bill, his own "bipartisan" bill. And now, we are where we are because of Baucus' ridiculously naive notion that he could actually work with Republicans on health care, despite the fact that real health-care reform means near-permanent minority status for the GOP and a loss of untold millions for the party's well-heeled sponsors.
I'm reminded of the story of the frog and the scorpion. You're probably familiar with this. The frog agrees to take the scorpion across a stream on his back. But halfway through, the scorpion stings him. As they begin to slip beneath the waves, the frog asks, "Why did you do that? Now we'll both die!" And the scorpion answers, "I cannot help it. It is my nature."
Max Baucus, you are a toad.
But it's not too late, folks. Baucus' mistakes can still be undone. Budget reconciliation is still a possibility. Health care for each and every American is, believe it or not, still a possibility. But it will take some partisanship and some serious wheeling and dealing on Obama's part to get enough congressmen on board, something he should do while the iron is still hot -- while the Baucus bill is still being talked about as the dud it is. Otherwise, the greedheads and whorehoppers will have their way -- and they've been raping the rest of us long enough.