How do they do it? That is the question progressives should be asking right now. How do the insurance companies manage to kill health care reform in a supposedly democratic republic, where public support for health care reform, and I mean the kind progressives can get behind, is overwhelming?
In a word: leverage.
The insurance companies have leverage over politicians. Most of that leverage comes in the form of money. God do they have a lot of money. But they also have something else. They are loyal to no one and no party. They don’t care if you’re Democrat, Republican, or Green, as long as you can be sufficiently bought off, or sufficiently threatened into compliance.
There are after all only two forms of leverage in politics. Threat and reward. Or, more traditionally, carrots and sticks. The insurance lobby uses both to great effect. Progressives know all about carrots and sticks. Carrots for Democrats, sticks for Republicans.
But special interests like the insurance lobby aren’t so choosy. And that’s where they get their real power. They are just as happy, for the most part, to buy a Democrat as a Republican. And they are just as happy to run either out of town.
Progressives don’t use this power because we know that using sticks on Democrats may result in Republican victories. So no matter what some Democrats do, the worst they can expect is a primary challenge which, as we saw with Lieberman, will probably fail.
So the end result is progressives have little or no leverage over Democrats. And, as a result, progressives are in a constant state of frustration. Sure, Democrats come crawling at election time. But one fundamental, yet unstated reality pervades: Where ya gonna go?
Some, in an attempt to remedy the situation, have advocated making the Democratic party more progressive by taking it over. “Be the party you want,” they say. “Infiltrate.”
This is a pipe dream. The entire structure of the two party system is designed to prevent that from happening. There will be no crashing of the gates. No progressive Democratic revolution. I explained the pipe dream in more detail here. But long story short, almost every bought out, sold out, corrupt Democrat in Washington started off trying to crash the gates.
The truth is, both parties are controlled by the same monied interests. This way, as the late Carroll Quigley observed, when an election occurs, real power doesn’t change hands.
The Democratic party is not designed to represent the common people. It is designed to contain us. To create the illusion of representation so that we don’t revolt.
So in lieu of the pipe dream, I was asked recently what I recommended. The answer is simple politics 101: I recommend doing precisely what every powerful interest group in Washington does. I recommend using leverage.
But that is risky is it not? I mean, if we use sticks on Democrats in general elections, we could lose our majority in Congress. The White House. Right?
You don’t have a fucking majority in Congress. Or the White House. Please figure that out. Your majority is an illusion. We don’t have Democrats and Republicans. We have “in-the-pocket-of-big-oil” and “not-in-the-pocket-of-big-oil”. We have “in-the-pocket-of-big-pharma” and “not-in-the-pocket-of-big-pharma.” Those are the real parties.
Please figure this out: Parties are illusions that only start to become real when you get to the bottom of the food chain. In the Senate, they are almost all illusion. It’s all about what interest you serve. And that’s all about the money. The rest is a sideshow.
Only when we realize this, and use our leverage accordingly, will we gain real political power. The only leverage a politician understands is the power to make him or her LOSE.
You want a more progressive Democratic party? You have to be willing to lose. It’s that simple. Sure, it may cost them their “majority”, but they will never fuck with us again.
This is how you get “better” Democrats. This is we change this country. THis is what our enemies have long understood. There is no other way. Leverage.