"[a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan]" and the value of fuzzy semantics
The various media outlets attempting to fact check Obama's campaign position on [a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? public [health insurance]? [option|plan] are missing one very essential point:
There are no facts to check! Only blurry and ever shifting semantics -- as single payer advocates pointed out at the time, vociferously, and were excoriated by access bloggers for so doing, when they weren't treated as unpersons. I mean, seriously: What kind of public policy can survive being marketed as having 130 million enrollees, end up with 10 million, and still have the same name? One that's got fuzzy edges? Or one that's all fuzz?
I mean, look at the examples Think ProgressMR SUBLIMINAL Haw cites. Let me annotate them slightly:
[a |the][strong|robust|triggered]?new public [health insurance]? [option|plan ]
... needs to be
[a |the][strong|robust|triggered]?public [health insurance]? [option |plan ] ...
... “any plan” he signs “must include…
[a |the][strong|robust|triggered]?public [health insurance]? [option |plan ].” ...
[a |the][strong|robust |triggered]?public [health insurance]? [option |plan ] would be ...
... "I absolutely do not believe that
[a|the][strong|robust|triggered]? it public [health insurance]? [option|plan]'s dead," ...
Of course, single payer advocates have been crystal clear on the policy they advocate, and for that reason, can show that it works through evidence and reasoning. From their perspective, clarity is a feature: For one thing, it's unethical to make health decisions for patients without their informed consent. The public option folks, by contrast, are and have been more than happy to do so.
What's a feature to honest single payer advocates is a bug in Versailles. Let's imagine for a moment that you were a thoroughly corrupt and ruthless pol whose permanent constituency was all the Bigs -- Big Banks, Big Pharma, Big Health Insurance -- and you'd sold your soul to them before the election* for all the usual reasons. And let's also imagine that you'd successfully, and expensively, marketed yourself to the wing of your party that conceived of itself, and not entirely without justification, as being idealistic, yet conscious of the tension between idealism and pragmatism. How would you handle the contradiction between selling yourself as a change agent, when you'd already sold yourself to the Bigs? Well, first you'd temporize. You'd kick the can down the road as far as you could. After all, maybe the contradiction will resolve itself! And how would you so that? Why, bullshit, of course! That is, "fuzzy semantics." Start out with a reasonable sounding plan, tell your people to tell anyone who asks to "check the website," and sell, sell, sell the idealism so people will think you'll make your plan better (and not worse). At the same time, have your access bloggers set people up for the fall by giving their (influential) readership an intensive course on how the game of Inside Baseball is played, so they can start understanding the virtues of pragmatism.
Lehman having coincidentally and helpfully collapsed, win the election.Have a health care lobbyist write the baseline bill you promised the Bigs. Over the course of the next year, gradually degrade your plan to the baseline, while the access bloggers helpfully justify each and every degradation based on the lessons of pragmatism you so carefully taught them. If the final bill turns into a Christmas tree as you buy off the necesssary Senators, well and good.
Mission accomplished! Bigs happy. Liberals whipped. Progressives whipped. "Progressives" whipped. And nobody fucked who wasn't already under the bus or going there. And a drop in the polls -- heck, a split in the party -- is a small price to pay, since elective office is really only an unpaid internship anyhow, at least for a smart guy who knows how to turn opportunity into advantage.
NOTE * Perhaps well before the election, but by mid-2008 at the very latest; that is, when the access bloggers got their marching orders to give single payer advocates no oxygen. (Sorry, I didn't mean to say "marching orders"; I meant to say "opportunities to participate in the historic yadda yadda yadda...")