I don’t share Al Giordano’s goal of replacing capitalism with something else. It’s not that I necessarily disagree with him, it’s just not my focus. But I agree with Al about his assessment of the Johnny-Come-Lately anti-corporatist movement in the blogosphere:
Also forgotten in this born-again anti-corporatism is what Alinksy, Gandhi and others have demonstrated: To create and sustain successful political movements and revolutions, you have to turn small triumphs into ever increasing larger ones. If you don’t have victories along the way and call them that, the people lose hope and motivation to back any movement or revolt.
And yet that is precisely what the bill-killer tendency (and we will surely see them behave the same incoherent way on future battles: immigration reform will be next) is pushing: This sense that nothing is progress, nothing can be defined as a win, and that winning itself is evil if it doesn’t overturn everything.
I also want to emphasize another major point that Al is making. It’s all about the people “down below.”
In lieu of any real plan, we are offered “feel good” solutions of lashing out against corporations. Lost in that discourse: the people down below. That is what has defined the health care debate on parts of the blogosphere. It doesn’t matter to some that 30 million people who don’t have any health insurance at all will now have theirs subsidized. To them, if the insurance corporations also benefit from it, then it is a moral “evil” that must be stopped.
Perhaps it is our shared history of on-the-ground political organizing, but Al and I tend to see things the same way. That our government and society are dominated by corporate power is a given. We’d both like to lessen that power, and breaking the backs of the health insurance companies would be a huge victory that we would both celebrate. But that wasn’t the battle we just went through. Bernie Sanders recently estimated that his withdrawn single-payer amendment would have had the support of five senators. If you want to know why Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and Barack Obama and Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson didn’t propose a single-payer plan, that is why. It would never have won the support of even a sixth of the Democrats in the Senate. Does that mean you don’t fight to get access to health care to the forty-some million people who don’t currently have it? Of course not.
The Senate just agreed to subsidize health insurance for every American citizen who cannot currently afford it. If you couldn’t buy it at any price because of a preexisting condition, you don’t have to worry about that anymore. You won’t have to worry that high health care costs will ruin you financially. You won’t have any reason to put off going to the doctor for a check-up because you are afraid of what they might discover about your health.
We lost the battle to destroy the health insurance industry because no one was really willing to wage it. We lost the battle we did wage, to create a public alternative. But, for the people “down below” we won a giant victory. And, I don’t know about you, I couldn’t look them in the face and tell them they’ll just have to wait…again.
People in dire need don’t have time for ideological battles. They need small victories, and that is what this is. We ought to call it that.