Howard Dean’s Bombshell

He wants Senate Democrats to start all over, and use reconciliation to pass health care reform next year, because, he contends, without a public option or the Medicare buy-in replacement, the current bill isn’t worth passing.

Jane Hamsher (no surprise) seconds Dean. “From what we know about the bill, it is worse than passing nothing,” she says. So do Darcy Burner, a former House candidate, and so do pretty much all the health care reform activists as opposed to policy wonks. There has been a sharp difference of opinion for some time now between those on the left who felt the public option was more important than the overall bill, and those who took the view that the underlying legislation was more important. As Greg Sargent notes, the response among liberal bloggers to Howard Dean’s call to “kill the bill” is falling rather neatly along that same dividing line:

There’s a debate raging in the blogosphere about whether the Senate bill has been so watered down that it’s time to try to kill it, and one thing that’s interesting is how cleanly it breaks down as a disagreement between operatives and wonks.

The bloggers who are focused on political organizing and pulling Dems to the left mostly seem to want to kill the bill, while the wonkier types want to salvage it because they think it contains real reform and can act as a foundation for further achievements.

In the former camp are bloggers like Markos Moulitsas, former House candidate Darcy Burner, and the Firedoglake crew. They mostly deride the bill as a giveaway to the insurance companies that does nothing for consumers. A quick rundown of their opinions right here.

In the latter camp are wunder-wonk types like Ezra Klein, Jonathan Cohn, and Nate Silver. They all make expansive arguments that the current legislation contains real reform and indeed represents a fairly immense progressive achievement. A quick rundown of their opinions here.

I respect the activists’ passion and sincerity, but I do not agree with them at all — although at one time, I would have. I think the underlying policy is more important than whether we get everything we want in the first round. One of the reasons I feel that way is the length of time we’ve been trying to get health care reform: All my life. That’s since 1950, for who those who don’t know. I think activists are being very naive if they think we can start from scratch and get the best parts of this legislation — or any parts of it at all through reconciliation. If it dies now, it’s dead. Maybe not forever, but for another couple of decades for certain. And I’m not willing to see that happen.

More commentary here.