For a long time, the American conversation has been terribly distorted because an active, uncompromising political right has not had to face a comparably influential left. As a result, our entire debate has been dragged in a conservative direction, meaning that the center has been pulled that way, too.If you listen carefully to what he's saying, its all an either/or struggle and if the left got as uncompromising as the right, we'd wind up somewhere in the middle. Yeah, right. I guess it never dawns on these people that that's exactly what the strategists on the right want...total gridlock that sends everyone away screaming "a pox on both your houses!" Or perhaps Dionne just thinks that the Republicans have been fooling us all these years with their commitment to total obstruction and that they would have caved in their demands if only there had been a more uncompromising left. That's why I call this kind of analysis lazy. I doubt he's even bothered to think it through. Its a theory that sounds good in abstract. But when you go beyond the superficial, it makes zero sense.
Of course Dionne trots out the tired old lefty arguments to bolster his case about how Obamacare was simply a give-away to the insurance companies with - GASP - no public option.
Obamacare is complex because the government is trying to create a marketplace in which people shop for private insurance and receive government subsidies if they need them. It goes to a lot of trouble to preserve the private insurance market. The system does not even include a government plan as one option among many.There is no mention of the fact that Obamacare begins the process of decoupling health insurance from employment, includes the largest expansion of Medicaid in the program's history, or initiates huge changes to the private insurance business model (no exclusion for pre-esisting conditions, no medical underwriting, no lifetime limits, guaranteed essential benefits and overhead/profit limited to 15% of premium dollars). What we got is the most sweeping progressive change to health care in our country's history after over 100 years of failed attempts. But in Dionne's eyes, it was all just a cave to the uncompromising right.
Dionne goes on to herald the populism of politicians like de Blasio for talking about income inequality. And like Peter Beinart (who started this whole meme) he totally misses that the populism was also fueled by the new Mayor's gorgeous bi-racial family and his promise to end the ridiculous stop and frisk policies of his predecessor. In other words, de Blasio energized the Obama coalition in New York City...big time! You want leftist populism - that's where you're going to find it in this country's future. Our mostly white punditry keeps missing that one.
If you want to find a national figure that has championed populism to take on the issue of income inequality, you need look no further than our current President. As I've demonstrated before, tackling those issues is something President Obama has talked about from the beginning and is the reason he ran in the first place. Campaigns that were fueled by small donors, efforts to build on that with OFA and a message that "nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change" might not rely on the word "populism," but no one can doubt that it is at the heart of what he has been committed to from day one.
So I welcome these new faces like Mayor de Blasio and Senator Warren to the table. But lets not forget who set it in the first place. That would be the guy who threw out the failed tug-o-war gridlock way of thinking about politics and built a coalition to actually get some real stuff done.