Stay off my side

STAY OFF MY SIDE…. We’ve been talking quite a bit this week about the policy dispute between progressives, some of whom believe the Senate Democratic health care plan is worth passing, some of whom believe it should be scrapped. Greg Sargent reports today that some — not all, some — in the center-left media establishment have decided that the latter contingent is not only wrong, but is not to be taken seriously at all.

Ronald Brownstein, for one, is actually trying to claim that Howard Dean opposes the bill because he’s a “wine track” Democrat who doesn’t lack insurance and hence has the luxury to indulge in ideological struggles.

Brownstein writes that Dean and the “digital left” are able to “casually dismiss” the bill because “they operate in an environment where so few people need to worry about access to insurance.” He adds that for these critics, the debate is “largely an abstraction” and merely a crusade to “crush Republicans and ideologically cleanse the Democrats.”

Brownstein doesn’t meaningfully respond to any of Dean’s substantive policy objections to the bill. If he did, he could no longer claim Dean’s critique is purely “ideological.”

He’s not the only one making this claim. Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The Times today wrote that “ideology” is “smacking the pragmatic president in the face,” presumably meaning that the word “ideology” is a good catch-all for all criticism of the bill. And Joe Klein has dismissed critics for being in the grip of “ideological fetishes.”

Look, I’ve been clear about where I come down on this — I think the remaining health care reform policy has merit and should be passed (and then improved upon). To that limited extent, Brownstein & Co. have come to the same conclusion that I have on the value of the Senate proposal.

But their mockery of progressives who’ve criticized the bill is absurd. I suppose it’s possible to find some liberal, somewhere, who recommended killing the Senate plan for purely ideological/political reasons, but as I’ve pointed out several times this week, any fair reading of concerns raised by most progressive opponents shows a great deal of specific, substantive, policy-centered concerns.

To argue otherwise is to ignore the readily-available text.

I should also note, of course, that there are reflexive, knee-jerk opponents of health care reform, who seem more concerned with an ideological agenda than the nation’s needs. You won’t find them on Daily Kos or FireDogLake — these opponents include Tea Party activists, Fox News’ on-air personalities, and the vast majority of the Republican caucuses in both chambers of Congress.