Edwards Brings Progress to Progressives?

By David Swanson

jsamuel at MyDD has posted a blog promoting John Edwards and disparaging Dennis Kucinich – or at least me. He opens with a bunch of polls and an argument that Edwards is gaining progressives’ backing:

“Is it because he is the most crazy liberal of all the candidates? Of course not. It is because progressives believe that he is the most capable candidate to be successful in implementing their ideals.”

In fact, Edwards has taken many honestly progressive positions, as well as many deeply troubling right-wing ones. There are progressives backing him. But in many cases their thinking, and the line from jsamuel above, strike me as worrisome. The idea that a progressive should not want to support anyone who’s too progressive, that in fact such a person can be considered “crazy” seems to betray not just calculated strategic compromise but a compromised confidence in your own identity.

Of course, strategic calculation is a big part of it. Edwards is white, male, southern, religious, tall, handsome, extremely wealthy, and well-organized. But here’s where that calculation seems to me to fall apart: Edwards gave a speech the day he voted to authorize Bush to invade Iraq. Any Republican running against Edwards need only put bits of that speech on TV again and again to trounce him in the election. Edwards also refuses to oppose the possibility of launching an aggressive nuclear attack on Iran. You may find that perfectly acceptable, but think about this: if Bush and Cheney attack Iran, will Edwards applaud with at least one hand? And what will that do to him as a candidate? At some point will you wish you’d backed an actual progressive instead, even out of the sheer goal of winning – regardless of what it is you’re winning?

jsamuel goes on to object to two articles I wrote about Edwards’ health plan and his financial investments. Edwards is to be applauded for all his work with ACORN and with labor unions, but you will not find ACORN or a labor union investing in Wal-Mart. If Edwards’ investing in a fund that looks like a who’s who of corporate crooks, loan sharks, union busters, environmental destroyers, and monopolists doesn’t bother you, then it doesn’t bother you. It bothers me.

And, yes, Edwards’ money supports, among other things, some of the most deadly health insurance companies around. If you consider that an unavoidable cost of being disgustingly wealthy, and therefore excusable, that’s your business I suppose.

But Edwards’ health plan is all of our business, and it is seriously flawed. jsamuel objects to my assertion that Edwards’ tax credits would go to private insurance companies. But it is clear that they would. Edwards is not going to give people money just so that they can give it back to the government for their health coverage. Edwards’ plan would involve more people receiving government health coverage. It would also force people to buy health coverage from either the government or a private company. And there are private companies poised for that business. I quoted the Nation before:

“Humana has become a national brand poised to sell policies in the non-Medicare market, where people will increasingly be forced to buy their own health coverage, especially if an ‘individual mandate’ becomes a solution for the country’s healthcare woes.”

Supporters of Edwards’ plan blame Kucinich’s single-payer plan for not offering people the “choice” of private health insurance. At the same time, they claim that Edwards’ plan will become a single-payer plan if Americans choose government coverage.

That sort of scheme is certainly a step in the right direction, but it is a very small step, because it keeps in existence some of the most powerful corporations in the country whose agenda will be to avoid ending up at single-payer. Insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies will dump their money into campaign bribes and advertising. The corporate money piling up in Edwards’ campaign “contribution” collection does not come without some purpose.

And as long as for-profit businesses are handling part of our health coverage they will be fighting to handle more of it, and working to cut costs by delivering less of it and by raising prices. The devil is in the details, and the details will be in the hands of the insurance companies for year after frustrating year until we find the will to take our country back and create a single-payer system by using something more democratic than a “market,” namely a government.

That proposal is not “crazy liberal” unless a majority of the country in various polls is crazy and most wealthy countries in the world are crazy. Edwards thinks Congress won’t pass a single-payer system. I think Congress won’t pass a system likely to evolve quickly into a single-payer system. That, I think, is a far more complicated and difficult proposal, far easier to bungle up.

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