The Republicans are still in charge

It appears from several reports that the Obama administration is about to concede on a public option, a government-run alternative to private health care insurers.

The public option is what we were supposed to be satisfied with in lieu of a single-payer system. Now, we will get co-ops with government seed money. It is unclear why these co-ops will be any better than existing companies. Barack Obama simply wants an alternative to private insurers.

So, I’m trying to get all this straight. George W. Bush was able to get Democratic party support for his endless “war on terror,” abrogating civil liberties, implementing torture, funding for the war in Iraq. Even when voters elected Democrats to control of Congress in 2006 with an explicit mandate to get the country out of the Iraq war, they didn’t. Even when voters elected Barack Obama as president, with an explicit mandate for change, he has consistently acted to preserve the status quo, watering down or backing out of each and every campaign promise he has made, even those promises he made after it was clear he had won the Democratic Party nomination.

I’m not surprised. I’ve been saying all along that this is what would happen. And I’m not alone.

And now I’m trying to remember a single instance since Bush came to power in 2001 that Republicans have compromised to get Democratic faction support. It is hard. I remember some push back on the Patriot Act extension and I remember a bunch of symbolic votes, but in the end, Republicans for all intents and purposes have gotten their way. I cannot recall a single instance where in opposition, the Democrats have eviscerated legislation the way Republicans are eviscerating health care reform.

So even in opposition, all Republicans have to do is throw a tantrum. They don’t even have to argue from fact. They can just argue from whatever lies they choose. And they will get their way.

I’m thinking of what is probably a very inaccurate metaphor. But, what the hell, the Republicans are doing it, so why shouldn’t I? I’m thinking of George Lakoff’s descriptions of conservatives as “critical fathers” and of liberals as “nurturant parents.” And I’m thinking of the classic scene in the grocery store where some toddler is creating a scene and won’t shut up and of course opponents of corporal punishment will insist that parents should try to understand their screaming infant and try to accommodate it when what would really satisfy would be to smack that screaming rug rat into the next galaxy.

It happens my earliest memory is on the side of a road, being whipped by my father. I’m no fan of corporal punishment. But if the Democrats’ answer to Republicans every time on issues that matter is to placate and to appease, the “critical father” that is deeply embedded in my upbringing has an answer I like a lot better.

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