Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tough All Over

There's an illuminating story told about possibly the last great figure of the British Labour Party's left, Aneurin "Nye" Bevan, who served as Minister of Health in the postwar Labour government that started the National Health Service, which we should only be so lucky as to have here, even with the diminishments in its effectiveness put upon it both by Mrs. Thatcher and Tony Blair's regimes.

Bevan was a fiery orator for the working class but he observed how he and his fellow Labourites were "hard on the outside but soft on the inside." The Tories (the British Conservative Party, as it has always been known), on the other hand, were friendly and accommodating, i.e., soft "on the outside," but hard on the inside, in terms of sticking to their positions.

Sometimes I think that the Democrats are hard neither on the outside nor the inside. Last year, they were afraid to run on what was an excellent record of legislative accomplishment and overall excellence in undoing some of the worst excesses of the Bush-Cheney era. Will they stand up and fight when the Republicans get going on their backward campaign to repeal health care? Or will they offer to compromise--in the same way that catering to such as "Insurance Joe" Lieberman compromised away much of the best parts--the public option, for example--of the health care legislation? They didn't win any Republican votes and they were held up by the Liebermans, Ben Nelsons, and "Loser" Blanche Lincolns of their own party.

The media, of course, actually bends over backwards to give the Republicans more than a fair hearing--and Fox of course gives them everything. Watch the pundits tell the Democrats that they have to compromise--why should they? Stand up for what you believe in--if you believe in anything except sucking up to Wall Street to raise campaign funds. No one ever made the Republicans explain why such obvious "trickle-down" ploys as tax cuts for millionaires made sense--in case anyone wonders, count up how much the millionaires have done to jump-start our economy with their extra income.

I hope the Democrats are willing to go to the mat this time and make it a battle of principle. The President has recovered by taking the high ground in Arizona and I hope he's willing to show that he actually will stand up for something. That, of course, was the ultimate undoing of Bill Clinton--a great politician and speaker and leader, but at bottom, did he stand for anything?

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