What is Al From talking about?

WHAT IS AL FROM TALKING ABOUT?…. Al From, the founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, urging Democratic policymakers to give up on the public option now, to help ensure passage of the rest of the health care reform bill. As one might have guessed, it’s an unpersuasive pitch.

In a nutshell, From argues that by pursuing a public plan, Democrats would make it easier for Republican obstructionists “to cloud the prospects for reform,” by diverting attention from the rest of the debate and focusing on a public option that “Americans disagree on.”

It’s hard to know where to start with something like this. Dems should drop the popular idea that would save money and help consumers because Republicans, who can’t block reform by themselves anyway, are putting insurance company’s interests at the top of their priority list?

Of particular interest, though, was From’s specific advice to President Obama. From recommends, among other things:

[M]ake one more effort to bring moderate Republicans along. Transformational reforms, such as civil rights legislation and Medicare in the 1960s, have always been passed with bipartisan majorities. Health-care reform should be no exception. The president promised a post-partisan politics. What better place to forge it than on his most important initiative?

No, no, no. For one thing, the president never “promised a post-partisan politics.” Obama assured voters he’d reach out to Republican lawmakers in good faith, and he has. But “post-partisan politics” is a media creation/buzzword. For another, the White House has gone out of its way to try and secure GOP support for reform, but the president’s hand has been consistently slapped away.

But it’s especially frustrating to see From talk about the “bipartisan majorities” on major bills from bygone eras. It’s a popular observation among conservatives, and it’s foolish.

Scott Lemieux recently explained, “Of course Medicare and Social Security had lots of Republican support: There were lots of northern liberal Republicans in Congress, whose support was often needed to counterbalance the reactionary segregationists in the Democratic caucus. In the current context, conversely, the liberal northern Republican is virtually extinct, and the few remaining ones are 1) subject to much stronger party discipline than was the case in 1937 or 1965, and 2) are more heterodox on social than fiscal matters. So thinking that the same kind of legislative coalition was viable would be silly.”

When Congress took up “civil rights legislation and Medicare in the 1960s,” moderate and center-left Republicans were still fairly common. Democratic leaders had no trouble finding sensible GOP lawmakers who were anxious to work on progressive policy goals. President Obama, however, is stuck trying to find common ground with a right-wing reactionary party that not only opposes common-sense reform measures, but is running a scorched-earth campaign to destroy his presidency.

Nicholas Beaudrot put it this way: “[I]t’s simply not meaningful to compare the present circumstances to those faced by Lyndon Johnson or Franklin Roosevelt when it comes to bipartisanship…. Barack Obama faces partisan polarization not seen since Woodrow Wilson was President.”

Is From not aware of this?