Politicians aren't all the same, even if they all do terrible things

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/26/politicians-arent-all-the-sa.html


I think the objection to incremental improvements- like Obamacare- is that temporary fixes become permanent solutions. This is the reality of all systems design, and governments are no exceptions. Once something is enshrined in law, it is very difficult to change or replace.

From that perspective, the ACA isn’t really an incremental improvement- it’s an ugly fix that we’re now stuck with for the foreseeable future. Yes, it’s closed off one class of failure mode. But it’s hardly a suitable system for the long term- we’re going to be stuck with it for, at minimum, twenty years (just based on the speed of these kinds of legislative changes) and it simply isn’t suitable for twenty years.


Dam right! Obama should not have spent his political capital on that. He should have sat on that until the 2010 congress takeover by republicans who really had a much better plan for universal health care.


See also…


Best comedy piece in a while, Thanks BB!


I’m as unconvinced now by ms Solnit’s essay as I was when I first read it a few years ago.

To wit: “Picture Gandhi’s salt marchers bitching all the way to the sea…” The salt marchers here are bitching because Gandhi has stopped marching. Gandhi has stopped because he got something. And that’s always is better than nothing, eh?

I’d like her to tell the 20 men who have been recommended for release from Gitmo but are still moldering there, that they should stop complaining. And that their supporters should also stop complaining, because the recommendation to release them is ‘an incremental improvement’.

Would Mandela have accepted anything other than ‘one man one vote’?

Edited to add:
I was in high school in the 1970s. Apartheid was still the system of government in South Africa.

During my last year of high school, at long last, international pressure began to mount. Quoting from the Wikipedia entry:
In 1973, the UN adopted the Apartheid Convention which defines apartheid and even qualifies it as a crime against humanity which might lead to international criminal prosecution of the individuals responsible for perpetrating it. This convention [had] however only been ratified by 107 of the 193 member states as of August 2008. The convention was initially drafted by the former USSR and Guinea, before being presented to the UN General Assembly. The convention was adopted with a vote of 91 for, and 4 (Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) against the convention.

I remember that time. I remember all those speeches by the racist South African bastards telling us that we were being unreasonable and that we didn’t understand the special South African circumstances. I remember Edward Heath and Richard Nixon saying “well, there are extenuating conditions”. Even one of my classmates repeated that line, adding “but you don’t understand…”.

I replied: “There are no extenuating circumstances: one man, one vote. Anything less is unacceptable.”

It took another fifteen years of international pressure - and a lot of countries’ and protesters’ intransigence to convince Thatcher and the US Congress and President that they had no choice: officially and publicly oppose, as a matter of government policy, the South African Apartheid regime.

Despite decades of disinvestments, of boycotts (both sports and goods), the murders, the car bombs, and all those unreasonable people marching in the streets, it still took until 1994 for the first one-man-one-vote elections in SA.

Yeah, sometimes you need to reject the halfway solutions.


And the previous state of affairs was worse. It is no exaggeration to say that many Americans owe their lives to the frustratingly limited improvement that was the ACA.

Yes, I would have liked to see Obama fight harder for a single-payer plan but the majority of the American people didn’t want it and the Republicans wouldn’t even consider it. That’s not on him, it’s on them.


For me it’s more the support for foreign wars, foreign and domestic surveillance and domestic police state that the Democrats need to be chided on. Clearly voting Republican can’t fix those things. Since there is no other alternative, they can do what they like and we can lump it. Letting the Democrats get away with whatever they want because the Republicans are worse is part of why the country keeps moving farther to the right…


Depends on the issue. When my grandparents were kids you couldn’t legally buy alcohol in the United States. When my parents were in high school there were still anti-miscegination laws on the books. As recently as 2003 there were still laws in some states banning consensual sexual activity between members of the same sex.

Now we have a mixed-race President, you can marry pretty much whoever you want and host a drunken interracial orgy during the reception. Depending on which state you live in you can even toke up afterward.


I view it as not on anyone specifically, as much as a general failure of society. At the same time, we don’t have to be sanguine about terrible compromises that actively harm the progressive agenda even if they come with minor improvements. A longer strategy is important.

And I say this as someone who gets his healthcare from the marketplace.

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But “rejecting the halfway solution” that was the ACA wouldn’t have resulted in a better solution any time in the foreseeable future, it would have simply kicked the can down the road. And in the meantime more Americans would continue to die needlessly due to lack of basic health coverage.


And it took until the 21st friggin’ Century for the President to say "There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.

Welcome to 1967, eh.


The question I’m asking is: how many millions will die needlessly because the ACA doesn’t provide sufficient health coverage? And now the next question is: if we didn’t accept the ACA as a “least bad” option, would real reform have come sooner? If so, would it have come soon enough that in total, fewer people would have died?

We can’t say, but what we can say is that the ACA is a bad law.

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That was what Ted Kennedy assumed when he shot down Richard Nixon’s universal health care plan for not going far enough. Kennedy went to his grave regretting the decision, noting in retrospect “that was the best deal we were going to get.”

It’s been nearly two generations and we haven’t been close to getting a plan as good as the deal Kennedy walked away from in 1970. How many lives have needlessly been lost since then? How many families have been doomed to medical bankruptcy?


So, you agree- the ACA is not the best deal that one could have gotten. It was only the best one in this current political climate. Just because something is better doesn’t make it acceptable.

Look, compromise is the lifeblood of politics, and it’s been the complete and utter lack of compromise that’s turned the US political system into the endless shitshow that it is. But- but- it’s not progressives who are the ones refusing to compromise.

And by the same token, it’s insulting and condescending to say, “Well, you should be happy you got anything at all!” Like progressives shouldn’t be committed to progressivism, but instead, should be respected because of their largess and generosity. It’s sneering “I know better than you” attitude.

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You’re not wrong, sadly.

Fer cripes’ sake, Brainspore, don’t they sell pitchforks in the USA? Why do I never see any politicians’ heads on them, eh? You need to make them more scared of the electors than of the corporations.


I don’t know what the best possible deal Obama could have achieved in 2010 might have looked like. I do know that it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as the Nixon plan that Kennedy refused to compromise on in 1970, and waiting for the “best deal one could have gotten” hasn’t been a winning strategy in the past.


The trick is that the corporations and their neoconservative stooges succeeded in convincing the electorate that universal health care was a bad thing because SOCIALISM. It was a decades-long PR campaign that was devastatingly effective.


No, but that doesn’t mean we should be happy with the ACA. The ACA is a failure of progressive legislation. “It’s the best we could do,” doesn’t cut it- if anything, it’s a call to do better. Nobody should be happy with the ACA. The ACA is at best a stepping stone, but in practice is almost certainly going to be a stumbling block.