Has Obama lost the trust of progressives, as Krugman says?
Paul Krugman says “yes.” Is the health care fight an opportunity to change who wins in Washington?
Aug. 21, 2009
Paul Krugman has an excellent column today arguing that progressives have backlashed so intensely over the prospect of Obama’s dropping the public option because — for reasons extending far beyond specific health care issues — they no longer trust the President. Citing Obama’s steadfast continuation of Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies, the administration’s extreme coziness with crisis-causing banks, and the endless retreats on health care, Krugman says that “a backlash in the progressive base . . . has been building for months” and that “progressives are now in revolt. Mr. Obama took their trust for granted, and in the process lost it.”
Krugman contends that while “the fight over the public option involves real policy substance,” it is at least as much “a proxy for broader questions about the president’s priorities and overall approach.” That’s the argument I made the other day about why the health care fight is so important regardless of one’s views of the public option. The central pledges of the Obama campaign were less about specific policy positions and much more about changing the way Washington works — to liberate political outcomes from the dictates of corporate interests; to ensure vast new levels of transparency in government; to separate our national security and terrorism approaches from the politics of fear. With some mild exceptions, those have been repeatedly violated. Negotiating his health care reform plan in total secrecy and converting it into a gigantic gift to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries — which is exactly what a plan with (1) mandates, (2) no public option and (3) a ban on bulk negotiations for drug prices would be — would constitute yet another core violation of those commitments, yet another bolstering (a major one) of the very power dynamic he vowed to subvert.