Pressure from the left can have an effect

PRESSURE FROM THE LEFT CAN HAVE AN EFFECT…. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) of Arkansas hasn’t exactly been a reliable champion of progressive policy goals. In the context of the debate over health care, Lincoln has been one of the least likely Democrats to support the public option endorsed by most Democratic lawmakers, the president, and the public.

With that in mind, Lincoln’s op-ed in today’s Arkansas Democrat-Gazette struck an interesting note. (The piece is behind a subscription wall.)

Health care reform must build upon what works and improve inefficiencies. Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans. Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan.

It sounds like Lincoln is almost there. Her reference to a “non-profit plan” probably relates to the co-op proposal some Republicans are willing to tolerate, and which is a poor substitute for more meaningful reform, but notice that Lincoln is otherwise on solid ground here. President Obama envisions a Health Care Exchange in which consumer choose from a range of competing options, including a “quality, affordable public plan.” Just as soon as Lincoln drops that co-op idea, she’ll be right where she needs to be.

Indeed, her op-ed goes on to rebut critics from the right.

Unfortunately, opponents of reform, who have no real plan for improving health care, are already using the tired arguments of the past. They say that Congress is trying to create “more government” or a “Washington takeover” of health care, which will raise your taxes, get between you and your doctor, and eliminate private insurance. It’s a strategy that spreads misinformation and generates fear to preserve the status quo. Arkansans should not be misled by those who oppose real reform.

Keep in mind, there’s been some discussion of late about whether progressive pressure on some of the less-liberal Dems is worthwhile. It’s worth remembering, then, that Lincoln’s reluctance to support a public option “had made her a top target of the left,” and the Arkansas senator was poised to face a new round of ads in her home state on this issue.

Under the circumstances, I’m very much inclined to think the left should keep the pressure on. It seems to be having the desired effect.