[First published as a Daily Kos diary on Thursday, September 3, 2009.]
There has been a lot of discussion about the possibility that the White House may decide to stick it to its progressive base on health care reform. As the MSM conventional wisdom goes, Obama is losing support among independent voters who, in large part, are happy with their health care and don't want the public option. That couldn't be further from the truth. As Jed Lewison reports, a recent CNN poll shows a 55% support for the public option.
The other interesting piece of news, which is the subject of this diary, is that during the heated August health care debate MSNBC outperformed CNN by 61 percent and FNC by 4 percent in the key 18-34 demographic in prime time. Let me restate this, the cable news channel which has been the most vocal in support of the public option (Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, Ed Shultz) and, to a certain extent, single payer, was also the #1 news network among younger viewers during the month of August when all the kooks were supposedly coming out of the woods against health care reform.
TV by the Numbers just headlined: "MSNBC Beats CNN in Primetime in August Among Viewers 25-54". Further down, we find out that the news channel not only beat CNN but also FOX network among younger viewers, Adults 18-34, in primetime. Further more, we learn that “The Rachel Maddow Show” is "the fastest growing cable news show at 9 p.m, up a huge 92 percent in total viewers versus August 2008."
Is the White House paying attention to this?
We are told by the mainstream media that the reason behind Obama's sagging polls is that he is too liberal and that he is losing support among independents because of it. If that were the case, why are 55% of Americans still supporting the public option? Obviously it doesn't add up, and the truth is that, contrary to conventional wisdom, Obama's polls are sagging because he is too corporate and not liberal enough and thus he is losing the support of his base.
The White House has been telling his base to suck it up since it came into office and before: support for the Bush bailout and subsequent Obama bailout of Wall Street, inadequate Stimulus Package, no Iraq pullout and escalation in Afghanistan, and now compromised health care reform. It is my sense that the progressive base of the Democratic party has had enough and for this reason, health care reform and specifically the public option has become the litmus test for progressive democrats.
Obama and the White House should pay serious attention to this and not make the mistake of throwing its base with the sausage scraps. While corporate democrats such as Rahm Emanuel may believe that the party has to bend over in order to maintain the support of pharmaceutical and health insurance corporations in 2010 and 2012, do they really think that such industries will desert the Democratic party now that they are in power for the foreseeable future and the Republican party is reduced to a pulp? I don't think so. Corporations are, by definition, apolitical. All they care about is profit and, for this reason, they will hedge their bets and support both parties as they have always done because they want to have a seat at the table no matter who wins.
Finally, the Obama administration the Democratic Congress have enacted the Wall Street bailout, the GM/Chrysler bailout, and the Stimulus Plan while brushing off overwhelming public opposition. Its line of defense has always been that they did so because they believed their actions to be necessary. Yet, on the health care debate, skewed opinion polls due to relentless corporate propaganda seem to become the all important metric to wether it is politically feasible to pass a strong health care bill.
Since none of this makes sense, it is fair to assume that the base will not be fooled by it and if Obama and the democrats renege on their promise to pass universal, affordable health care reform for all with a strong public option, they will most likely lose a considerable slice of their base: especially the young, 18-34 Democrats who watch MSNBC as they are the ones who have the most to lose from yet another corporate giveaway in the form of a private health insurance mandate without the choice of a strong, and affordable public option.
The only possible positive good outcome in this scenario would be if progressive Democrats in Congress finally accept the fact that there is no future for progressives and their causes in the Democratic party. If health care reform fails to deliver the three important aspects of affordability, accessibility, and cost control, they better start thinking about splitting the party and create a new truly progressive party to the left of the now corporate owned Democratic party.
The timing couldn't be more propitious as the Republicans are in shambles and they could be relegated to the far right for good. We would then have a three party system with the Democrats at the corporate center, and two parties to the left and right of it which may not be able to win a presidency, but could seriously impact the business of Congress. The top down creation of a progressive party which truly represents the American people would create real competition and keep the corporate party duopoly honest (pun intended).