Will Obama's Public Option Punk Out End Up Passing Health Reform?

On the heels of Jack White's breast-beating cry for Barack Obama to stop punking out on health care reform, it's worth reposting "The Daily Show"'s equally impassioned cry for Obama to do the same:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c


It's understandable that progressive-minded Americans might want the president to show a little Bush-era salesmanship, and start acting like the party that won a sweeping electoral mandate in 2008—but what if the Obama White House is two steps ahead? That is, what if the public option head fake (and there's a good case to be made that the administration didn't mean for the story of the week to be the death of the one mechanism that would keep greedy insurers honest) was actually a ploy to rally what had been a dispirited progressive base?

We've seen gun-toting conservatives apply loud and sustained pressure on both Obama and on Congressional representatives, but, all August, few rifle-strapped Democrats were mounting their own defense of Obama's plan to bring affordable health care to every man woman and child in the United States. In other words: It's always easier to be against something rather than for something.


Now, halfway through the make or break congressional recess, team Obama has given liberals (and, if reports are to be believed, 60 House Democrats) something to shout about. Noam Scheiber shares his wisdom on what could be a White House triple-bank-shot strategy:

The benefits arise both in the broader national debate and in the congressional negotiations. In the national debate, Obama now looks like the centrist voice of reason instead of an over-ambitious lefty (I'm caricaturing, of course, in the spirit of the cable-news coverage). Inside Congress, Obama may not get a public option, but if he doesn't, he was never going to get it. And now he can extract a ton of concessions in return, because he can point to a left-wing of his party that's ready to eat him alive for failing to deliver on it (whereas that left-wing outrage was largely hypothetical before now). That kind of leverage is extremely helpful.

Indeed. And between Jon Stewart and Jack issuing a full-throated “Knee-grow, puh-leeeze!” the debate may yet take a progressive turn.


Covers the White House and Washington for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.

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