It's been going on for just over a week now, but it already seems much longer. People I admire and respect are spewing toxins at each other on Twitter, second-guessing each other's motivations, smearing each other as either neoliberal tools or saboteurs of the Medicare for All movement.
This needs to stop.
All these folks agree that this nation needs Medicare for All ASAP, as the ongoing pandemic has illustrated so starkly. The disagreement is a matter of legislative strategy...oh, and also of Jimmy Dore's having the temerity to criticize (sometimes harshly) Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for not living up to her campaign rhetoric.
From what I've seen, Progressives who are paying any attention to this controversy are actually split into three camps:
- those who agree with Dore that House Progressives should withhold their vote in the Speaker race unless Speaker Pelosi agrees to move an Improved Medicare for All resolution onto the floor for a debate and a vote;
- those who agree with the strategy but take Dore and others to task for being so obnoxious about it; and
- those who disagree with that strategy and defend AOC against Dore's fever-pitched calls for her to walk the talk.
Now I'm wishing I could re-find the Tweet in which somebody posted a Screenshot of an Excel table with a couple of dozen lefty commentators divided into three columns. The longest of the three, consisting of more than 50% of the names, is the Camp 1 column.
For what it's worth, my name would be in that first column. However, I have seen about as many Camp 1 folks saying nasty things about Camp 2 as vice versa. This cancel-culture approach is not just counterproductive, it's destructive. It's painful to see, for example, Dore and David Sirota butting heads like a couple of rutting bighorns. Sirota accuses Dore of operating in bad faith (a phrase that others have deployed, Ana Kasparian e.g.); Dore doesn't give Sirota credit for his years in the trenches on the single-payer front.
Jimmy Brings the Heat, Kyle Cools It Down
While it's objectively true that Dore has rubbed a lot of comrades the wrong way with the way he goes about it, it's also true that the gobsmackingly high number of deaths, hospitalizations, and health care workers experiencing severe burnout warrants such passion.
In one way, it's good that this dispute is generating enough heat to draw some attention. Whether he intended it or not, Dore has greater name recognition than before, and presumably a lot more followers.
Another good result from all this is the creation of a Force the Vote website. Give it a look.
Kyle (Secular Talk) Kulinski has turned that heat down a notch of two. Last Monday he provided the most rational and articulate analysis that I've seen so far on the situation. His take boils down to "force the vote so we can see which Democrats in the House are the enemies of Medicare for All." Where possible, those enemies, those puppets of Big Insurance and Big Pharma need to face primary challenges from strong left-populist candidates. Kulinski also points to the success of Tea Party pressure in moving the Republican Conference to the right, both in the rhetoric of some incumbent Congressmembers and getting replacing others with hard-right primary challengers.
BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!
It's taken me a few days, but I'm now seeing a collateral advantage, and I haven't seen any other commentator make a mention of this: If the worry becomes reality, and Democrats elect a new Speaker even deeper in the neoliberal tar pit than Pelosi, that goes a long way toward proving that the Democratic Caucus is, in the aggregate, a bigger enemy than individual Congresscritters.
This has been my position for years. I can respect AOC, the Squad, and old-school Progs like Barbara Lee and Raúl Grijalva—and admire all the progressive stands they've taken—yet still believe that the Democratic establishment is evil. A party that purports to represent The People is totally not representing The People when a substantial majority of The People favors a single-payer solution.
Perhaps this has occurred to me because I've been a Green for the majority of my adult life and have not considered myself a Democrat since 1995. As a Green, I also don't feel entitled to lecture Democratic legislators on Democratic legislative strategy, but that doesn't mean I can't offer some suggestions from my relatively objective perspective.
There is an unfortunate drawback to this, however: The majority of rank-and-file Democrats—those who still believe that Rachel Maddow is worth whatever MSNBC is paying her—won't care. To them, even if the Democratic leadership is evil, it's still not as evil as the Republican leadership. Even if these folks support a single-payer health system, they consider anyone who criticizes key Democrats or the Democratic Party a Russian stooge rooting for the Republicans to run the table.
These are truly desperate times, which call for desperate measures. What Dore advocates is far more than a Hail Mary pass, though; it has long-term consequences, including some long-term rewards. I can entertain fantasies that one of those long-term rewards is watching fifteen or so progressive representatives announcing that they're sick of being treated like dogshit the Democratic Party just stepped in, and then defecting en masse to the Greens or the People's Party.