Tongue-tied liberals on the wars and health care

Doug Henwood

Every passing day reveals the toxic side-effects of the Obama presidency more clearly. The activist liberal left has largely either gone silent or cast itself in the role of apologist for power.

Yes, it is now obvious that the vast bulk of anti-war protesters were decidedly more anti-Bush than anti-war. And while Obama has toned down the Iraq war, he’s escalated the Afghanistan war. Yet most antiwar protest has gone mute.

Well-off liberals are entirely comfortable blasting Wal-Mart, which is vulgar and largely Republican. But don’t be too bold in criticizing—I mean questioning—our president, who is an elegant Democrat.

Is this what Bob Dylan sang about, ‘you just want to be on the side that’s winning.’ Do we want real change, or just to perpetuate the tired old the-other-side-is-to-blame game that paralyzes US politics.

And the quality of much of the opposition [to the health care plan] has only deepened the liberals’ defensive ardor. A few weeks ago, I heard someone I love and respect, an otherwise sophisticated and thoughtful person, say that “we” have to support the scheme just because “they” oppose it. Professional journalists, who should know how to scrutinize the content, typically do little better. So we’re condemned to dueling caricatures, and our health care system will continue to suck enormously.

A recent poll showed the vast majority of the population has no idea what the public option is or means. This suggests that Obama, Democrats in Congress, and liberal and progressive bloggers have done a terrible job of explaining it. They need to do so. It would certainly increase chances of the bill passing. Because the mud slinging fest we have going on now is doing little to get a quality health care bill passed.


  1. Might be easier to explain healthcare if we had a clue exactly what we are fighting for. Right now it is still 4 and a half bills that are not the same and even if we know it is very likely going into reconciliation, we do not have a clue what will come out of that conference.

    If Obama and Dem leadership were a little clearer on exactly what will be for certain? Then we might be able to describe what to expect.

    As for the wars? It really is still all Bananastan with no W in sight. (You can take that W 2 ways)

  2. The complaints around here revolve around Obama’s continuation of Bush’s policies. Some GOPs acknowledge that the policies are Bush’s and some don’t. Still, the sudden silence of the Dems in the face of more-of-the-same is equaled only by the sudden squealing of the GOP in the face of the same more-of-the-same. I’d say you hit the nail on the head: all either side cares about is that it’s their guy in the White House.

    As for health care, not only don’t we know what the debate is about, we don’t care. A recent study showed that a majority on both sides have their minds made up already, and are twisting the facts to suit their predetermined position.

    I continue to believe that there’s more going on here than simple politics: there’s a culture war in which two equally matched sides are about to come to blows over irreconcilable differences that have nothing to do with Iraq, health care, or renewable energy.

    You say there’s a middle ground that both left and right would benefit from finding. And you’re right– except I suspect that there are deeper aspects to this divide that may prevent the middle ground from having any appeal. I had hoped Obama might be a leader strong enough to bring the two sides together. I was wrong. As things look today, it’ll be a miracle if it doesn’t come to violence.

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