a blog by josef johann

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Will to Kill the Bill

Nate Silver has the kill-the-billers exactly right, I think; perhaps more right than even he thinks:

I do want to make clear, though, that I should probably have made some finer points of distinction among those who I have lumped under the broad heading of "kill-billers". There is a healthy debate to be had over the merits of the health care policy, and there's much to be said from an Overton window perspective about a world in which you're having two liberals (me and Darcy Burner) square off against one another for nearly 15 minutes on Hardball, or David Sirota writing the opposing viewpoint to USA Today's editorial position that the health care bill should be passed. Moreover, pressure from the left has been more successful than the pressure-ers might allow. The concessions that liberals won in exchange for giving up the public option are not trivial, and some further improvements will probably be made to the bill in conference.

There have also, however, been people who have been arguing the bill in what I believe to be bad faith -- recycling or inventing a grab-bag of misleading and often self-contradictory talking points against the bill's passage. The progress of the debate over the past week has perhaps been revealing; whereas some advocates, like Markos Moulitsas and Howard Dean, have tended to ratchet down their rhetoric, in some cases even explicitly calling for the bill's passage, others have tended to become more entrenched. By "others", I mean in particular two or three of the writers at the blog FireDogLake.

The arguments you are hearing at FireDogLake - they seriously suggested the Senate bill could be obliterated and successfully replaced with a better one, with the same Joe Liebermans and Ben Nelsons signing on - are just embarrassingly bad. In fact, I think a better explanation for their behavior is with referece to an overton window. The "moderates" get to appear moderate if they are opposed by "the fringe" left, and if only there was this kind of furious outrage at the death of the public option, we might still have the medicare buy-in. If they argue the bill is not good enough, that may have been just the thing to get the moderates to come together on this compromise. It was only after they demanded we "kill the bill" that the final compromises fell into place.

Would you put it past Jane Hamsher & co. to pull a tactic like this?

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