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.