Heather Michon

Heather Michon
June 25
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MARCH 18, 2010 8:12AM

In Defense of Dennis, Reconsidered

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"I now officially hate all politicians."

This was my first thought yesterday when I read the news flash on The Huffington Post that Rep. Dennis Kucinich had reversed his position and would now vote "yes" on the health insurance reform bill now making its torturous way to the House floor for passage or deeming or anointing with oil...whatever the Democrats have decided to do to get the damn thing to President Obama's desk in the next few days.

It occurred to me last week when I posted "In Praise of Dennis Kucinich" that, even as I was praising his principled opposition, he might well change his vote.

Fearsome pressure is being brought on hold-out Democrats, and Kucinich in particular was the recipient of some of President Obama's special brand of attention, spending a couple hours with him on Air Force One on the way to a health-care reform rally pointedly held in Kucinich's Ohio district last Monday. Whatever was said, whatever has happened in the intervening days, it was enough to turn Kucinich to the "yes" column...even as he continues to say he's unhappy with almost every aspect of the bill.

Upon careful consideration, I can say I have no cause to be surprised. Politicians are party loyalists above all, both because they believe in the party's basic ideology and because it is only with major party support that they can achieve and remain in office. And most politicians are absurdly deferential to the guy at the top. These forces were clearly at work on Dennis Kucinich.

In his press conference, Rep. Kucinich said he was retracting none of his voluminous criticisms of the plan, but he was still going to vote yes.

(He did tacitly retract earlier comments about President Obama's argument that Democrats would fix the bill after it was passed. “Fix it later, are you kidding?” Kucinich told Benjamin Sarlin of The Daily Beast in an interview last week. “If you don’t get it in the bill up front, it’s not going to happen.” Last night, he told Larry King "I will work with the president in getting this bill passed and the president has committed to work with me in seeing further health care reforms after this bill is out of the way.")

One of the reasons he cited in his press conference? "The transformational potential of his presidency, and of ourselves, can still be courageously summoned in ways that will reconnect America to our hopes for expanded opportunities for jobs, housing, education, peace, and yes, health care." he said in his statement. "We have to be very careful that the potential of President Obama’s presidency not be destroyed by this debate. And I feel, even though I have many differences with him on policy, there’s something much bigger at stake here for America, and that’s what I’d like people to think about,” he amplified during the post-statement Q&A.

So there it is: Dennis Kucinich isn't voting for a health care bill he hates; he's voting for the (thus far unseen) potential of the Obama presidency.

Now, it's anyone's guess as to why the Democrats are convinced that the passage of this bill will save their sorry behinds in November or elevate Barack Obama to the pantheon of the greats. Public opinion polls in recent days have shown that while most Americans agree with a few individual provisions, they don't like much of what they've seen or heard about the whole package, and are less than wowed by the way the process has unfolded.

Still, the Administration and the Democratic leadership believe that we'll all just forget all the bad stuff about 20 minutes after the final bill is signed into law and remember only that Democrats saved us all from dying in the streets when Election Day rolls around.

Or, maybe they don't really believe this. Maybe they're looking at the polling and figuring they're screwed and that this may be one of President Obama's only legislative achievements, so, no matter what obtuse parliamentary procedure they have to pull out of their collective rumps, they just have to get it done.

Whatever the case, one can't help but feel that this has long since stopped being about providing top-notch health care to all Americans at not-bankrupting prices. For the wrongs this bill package seeks to right, it nevertheless perpetuates the biggest wrong of all: a system that has already proven itself unworthy of the desperately ill people who seek care within it.

Instead, it's become about protecting a party and a presidency that are looking increasingly like they're heading towards life support.

Yup. I now, officially, hate all politicians.


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At least you're honest enough to think it through and share that process publicly, Heather. I love it when you think out loud.
Thanks, Kathy. A line from Seinfeld came back to me last night:

"Well... that's a big move, Georgie-boy. Are you confident in the 'I love you' return? Cuz if you don't get that return... that's a pretty big matzo ball hanging out there."
Well, I guess prinicples aren't specifically required by the Constitution. (Tongue in cheek only!)

A good run-through of your though processes, Heather. And you are absolutely right about the current bill not being the solution to the very real problem of the current healthcare shorcomings. A good article.
I always like Dennis because even though I did not agree with all of his ideas, he stood by his principles. That has all changed. Now just have to wait and see what deal he made to change his vote.

When he was mayor of Cleveland he was crucified for not caving and selling the public utility to private investors. 30 years later I guess decades in Washington have finally turned him. Sorry to see you go Dennis you were one of the last principled representatives in Washington.
I suppose he's thinking "if this is the best we can do right now, is it better or worse than what we already have?" I have no answer to that one, just some hope that is *not* engendered by our current president. I'm insured, but my premium went up 50% in 18 months - yes, they're increasing it on a 6-month cycle this time.

That said, it seems a lot of us are disappointed, and you've expressed it well. Unfortunately, Kucinich's principles aren't enough for the rest of Congress.
I watched him yesterday and wanted to ask him how much he sold out for. I am sure time will tell, it always does. I wonder what he was paid for this.
They'll "fix it later?" Like they "fixed" the Patriot Act?
I appreciate your idealism but welcome to the real world. As that great democrat, Otto von Bismark said, "No one who loves sausages and laws should ever see either being made." (I have seen both being made and he's right.)

I don't thing that Kuicnich "changed his position" as much as recognize reality. He could see that he wasn't going to get what he wanted. But, there was one thing that he wanted that he could still get: some kind of broad health insurance coverage. His "yes" vote recognized that he was needed now to help pass the bill as it stands. That was necessary because if the forces of darkness get their way, it may be another 20 or so years until the next try. And, once they get something passed now, getting something more and better passed is going to come a whole lot faster. And, that something may be something a lot closer to what Kucinich wants.

So, I suggest that you view his "yes" vote NOT as a betrayal but as the first step in a two- or three-step process to getting what he wants.

The Congress is not a debating society. If it were, standing on fixed principles would be fine. But, when you have got to get things enacted, sometimes you have to settle.
Kevin, and the war in Iraq and Afghanistan will pay for itself and be over in 6 months. 9 years and 1.4 trillion dollars later... and counting. I will end the war in 6 months 40,000 new troops deployed later... and still counting.

The bank bailout had to be done... one year later huge profits and bonuses for CEOs from interest free money to the banks, no real change to banking regulations and interest rates surpassing 30% for consumers.

Buckle us America here comes another trillion dollar promise.
Well said. I have similar sentiments. I campaigned hard for Dennis in '08 even though I knew his chances were less than slim to none. I just wanted him to stay in the race long enough for his message to be heard. The media saw to it that was not going to happen.
I agree. Again. Thanks for posting this.
I've never understood what's "pragmatic" about fucking people over (which is what this bill does). I guess you could say lying about it is pragmatic...
I am frustrated by the health care bill, but something has to be done. The whole process has been ridiculous with all the lies and innuendo on the Republican side, and the whole time I was thinking I wish the Democrats would shove a healthcare bill with public option down the loud, obnoxious throats of the Republicans. The Democrats need to grow a set!
I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about all this, and I appreciate your post.
We live in a country where people are either terrified or simply disinclined to GIVE UP ANYTHING.

This includes trial lawyers and union members who are influential members of the Democratic party.

We already live in a society where 17% of GNP is spent on health care, almost 50% is directly funneled through the government, and the government regulates the hell out of the rest.

Unfortunately, the only possible 51% solution involves simply more giving. Subsidizing a chunk of the middle class regarding health insurance.

This year, the only possibility is giving. Next year we will start taking away.

Kucinich and the rest of the "idealists" -- whatever that means -- had an ENTIRE YEAR to sell their vision. They failed.

Time to take what is on the table and move on.
Yup. Me too. 2700 pages that none of them have read. Or as Nancy Pelosi put it last week: "We have to PASS it so we can know what's IN it." Where some unions get perks, etc.

The public won't forget and their sorry asses will get kicked out of office. But here's the dirty little secret. Even after getting kicked out, they will not have to live under the healthcare provision they are passing for the rest of us. They still have their own and BETTER healthcare system. Apartheid anyone?
You underestimate Dennis. Attempting to preserve the Obama presidency is laudable in light of the relentless campaign of contempt and disrespect waged daily by racist Republicans. Because that's what this is really all about. Make no mistake!

I wrote a blog some months ago questioning why any, other than the wealthy, would be Republicans. This is a party run by the wealthy, of the wealthy, and for the wealthy, just as this nation has been, so why would average Americans be Republicans. But it became quite clear. Racism.

Racism is the glue that holds all Right Wingers, Republicans, and Fascists together. Actually, I think the current position taken by Kucinich is a highly principled one, maybe too much so for our corrupt political and financial systems, not to mention our cynical minds, to even grasp!

No racist nation is a great nation. Ever.
Yeah, I wish we had single-payer like the rest of the civilized world. But boo-hoo. The world is imperfect. This bill will help people that haven't been getting any help. If you're waiting for a better bill, you'll be waiting till your dying day. You think you're going to a better one next year when the Republicans regain the house. Better to take a little something rather than nothing. Grow up.
Yes, Stellaa, 2014 is when the bulk kicks in In the meantime we are all going to be taxed up the ass for the next 4 years to pay for this monstrosity.
Put aside the fact that DK is a media whore, this is how Washington works! Which is exactly why it's time to clean house. I'm cooking up a potent little mixture of disinfectant that I plan to unleash come November. Oh an another thing.....if the Dems thought their Townhall meetings were a bit....uncomfortable...last summer...pass this and see what this year looks like. Last year was a picnic compared to what will happen this summer. The PEOPLE have had enough.
What Dennis did was very disappointing. I even sent the squirt a few bucks before he flip-flopped.
Welcome to the unrepresented.

It is sad to see someone go from "Praiseworthy Dennis" to "Dennis the Menace" with one decision.
I do hope this isn't your last word, Heather, as I've so enjoyed the words you've had so far.

I disagree that Obama has so far not lived up to his potential. In fact, he's got a pretty impressive record for a guy who's only been in office for a year and two months: major health care reform on the verge of passage, a stimulus bill that has helped reverse the country from a great recession, an admittedly weak jobs bill, student loan reform on the verge of passage, and now new, transformative education legislation and consumer protection bills making their way to the Hill. That's without discussing his foreign policy, where, again, his work -- and his visits, and his signature of the SOFA in Iraq -- have been nothing short of transformative. Most presidents are still learning where the bathroom is at this point in their presidencies, or focusing only on one priority. Obama's potential is realized in the sheer amount of stuff he's getting -- and trying to get -- done.

But: I do agree with you that this bill is flawed, and that it's going to be difficult to fix it right away. However, I hold out hope that it can be fixed, perhaps incrementally, down the road. Don't lose faith in all politicians! Some of them are doing the best that they can (and on this issue, Kucinich may be one).
I hate to rain on most people's parade who are posting here, but the Obamacare bill provides immediate benefit to the vast majority of Americans immediately! Repealing anti-trust, outlawing pre-existing conditions, outlawing limits of coverage for medical expenses -- all of these are in the bill, and voters will see the results before November.

I think the passage of this health care bill is equivalent to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Back in the 60s people complained about the fact that at the rate that Negros (in those days) would be registered on parity with whites in 236 years. Meanwhile, there have been quite a few changes in civil rights since 1964. The Civil Rights Act was followed by many other pieces of legislation that refined and improved on the original. We will see the same thing happening here.

And in an interview that Kucinich gave on a Los Angeles radio station, he more or less intimated that he was holding out for something from Obama for Kucinich's pro-healthcare vote. It's logical to assume that Obama will come up with significant revisions and improvements to the health care bill in 2011.

Liberals should get over whining about the obvious inadequacies of this healthcare bill. Instead, you should be celebrating its eventual passage in the House and Senate as a monumental piece of progressive legislation that is only the first step in a growing progressive trend from the Democrats.

And can anyone with more than a room temperature IQ tell me why we should believe the GOPsters telling us that passage of this bill will demolish Democratic chances for victory in November?
How do I judge Dennis? WWTD. Were in that unfortunate position, I would VERY reluctant do as he did. Tho' I find much in the bill reprehensible and tho I don't think it will do much if anything unless it is severely amended, there simply is no choice in that matter for all the reasons DK cited. I credit the man for standing alone and fighting the good fight and dreaming the impossible dream for all of us. But sadly, politics is not philosophy, it's lying down with whores and hoping you can avoid getting up with disease.
Really Heather? "Democrats [haven't] saved us all from dying in the streets"?

Just because you weren't dying in the streets, you selfish creature, did not mean we did not need major reform for the 44,000 who did die every year.

I have been a supporter of Dennis K since 1999. I wrote to him two weeks ago requesting he support this bill. Of course we will spend the next years fixing it. Your naivete is appalling.

What the Dems have done is create a sea change. We have not won yet, of course I support Single Payer. But the blood-sucking HMOs are no longer sancrosanct. After all their lies and their millions of dollars we have a major success.