Friday, March 5, 2010

Raul Grijalva, Progressive Stuntman?

I'm thinking that these two criticisms of Raul Grijalva, if right, synthesize pretty well into a defense of what he's doing. First, Matt Yglesias:
He deems it a “slap in the face” that certain things, especially HSA expansions, were added in exchange for zero GOP votes while progressives are getting nothing from the White House on a public option. And it’s true, Grijalva and other public option advocates have been slapped in the face. That said, the bill at hand is a boon to low-income Americans who desperately need help affording health insurance for their families. If you vote “no” and kill the bill, Barack Obama’s family will still be fine. Its families in Grijalva’s district who’ll pay the price.
Second, Jonathan Bernstein just before he went off to blog for Andrew Sullivan:
I'm definitely getting the feeling that Grijalva isn't going to be up on whatever Arizona's version of Mt. Rushmore is. The guy has one move, right? Step One: Raul Grijalva threatens that he'll vote against health care reform because the bill isn't far enough to the left. Step Two: No one pays any attention. Step Three: Raul Grijalva supports the bill. Step Four: The bill moves a little bit further away from Grijalva's preferences. Step Five: Repeat.
Matt's definitely right about bill > no bill. And while I've been very worried about this at various points in the past, I'm coming around to the view that Jonathan is right about Grijalva always seeing reason and eventually getting aboard.

So assuming Jonathan is right, what's gained by Grijalva's empty threats? Well, his only real power is his ability to shape whether legislation is seen as being liberal by complaining about it or not. If the chairman of the Progressive Caucus calls it a slap in the face, that weighs against it being treated as liberal, and people in the traditional media treating it that way helps it pass. It's kind of odd that somebody's best way of helping a bill is by being a political stuntman doing scenes where authors of legislation slap him around, throw him off bridges, and otherwise abuse him in picturesque ways. America, this is your politics.

Addendum: If I were a blogger of great significance (?!) and I posted this, would I be messing up Grijalva's game by calling attention to it? I don't think so. For the media to understand what he's doing, they'd have to come to terms with their own role in the process of determining whether something is treated as liberal, and how screwed up it is. And they're not going to do that.
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