Who’s “Ideological” in the Health Care Debate?

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Greg Sargent is unhappy with Ron Brownstein:

Ronald Brownstein, for one, is actually trying to claim that Howard Dean opposes the bill because he’s a “wine track” Democrat who doesn’t lack insurance and hence has the luxury to indulge in ideological struggles.

Brownstein writes that Dean and the “digital left” are able to “casually dismiss” the bill because “they operate in an environment where so few people need to worry about access to insurance.” He adds that for these critics, the debate is “largely an abstraction” and merely a crusade to “crush Republicans and ideologically cleanse the Democrats.”

I don’t think this is quite as far off-base as Sargent does. But to whatever extent you think Jane Hamsher is on an anti-pragmatic ideological crusade, any sensible look at things would indicate that Joe Lieberman is about a thousand times more at fault.

The key point here is that insofar as we’re really having an “ideological” dispute about the propriety of private health insurance, then what the left has shown throughout this debate is a willingness to bend extremely far in the direction of accommodation with the status quo. I haven’t seen any prominent progressives arguing that the goal of expanding health insurance needs to be held hostage to the dream of a 100 percent public insurance system. It’s Joe Lieberman who’s been willing to act with callous indifference to the fate of his constituents in order to get his way on a pretty minor point. For one important faction on the left, the removal of any form of public option has been the straw that broke the camel’s back, pushing them into a form of opposition. But that’s because Lieberman destroyed a compromise that was already something like the faded copy of a copy of a copy of the left’s real ideological commitments.

The habit of insisting that only the right and the left have “ideologies” and that people in the center don’t is one of the absolute most frustrating elements of conventional political discussion in the United States. The fact of the matter is that “centrist” ideological taboos have been the big story of the Obama administration. That starts with the imposition of an arbitrary cap on the size of the stimulus bill, it continues to the utterly merciless and fanatical centrist opposition to the existence of any public option, to the Fed’s refusal to undertake further monetary easing, to the unwillingness to contemplate really stern measures against bailed-out banks and their executives, and on and on and on.