Ben Smith writes that if the health care bill passes with “unified, if grumbly, support on the left, it would seem to vindicate the White House’s fundamental approach, which was to take the left for granted as much as possible and focus on courting marginal members of the Senate.”

He’s absolutely right. As I told Jonathan Weisman of the Wall Street Journal the other day (which he didn’t print), “f#%king r$%ards” worked.

Nobody will take progressives in congress seriously, nor should they. Their threats are idle and they won’t fight for anything they believe in. In the end, they’ll just take turns shaking their fists in futility and alternately sucking so no serious liberal challenge ever emerges to anything.

Whatever Barack Obama wants to do will be the farthest left any piece of legislation gets, and if anyone should try to challenge from the left, the unions and the liberal organizations and party blogs would rise up to condemn them and whip them into line — even if it means completely reversing themselves and devolving into total incoherence.  And they’ll be rewarded with carve-outs and corporate money and expensive advertising and personal sinecures for playing their role in facilitating the corporate cash pipeline.  Because that’s the job of the ever-expanding veal pen:  cover Obama’s left flank and shut down progressive opposition.

Donna Edwards specifically requested that we hold a fundraiser for members of Congress who signed the July 31 pledge to vote against any bill that didn’t have a public option. It was a cheap shakedown that raised $430,000 for little more than a theatrical performance, and now when donors call her office and ask what she plans to do, they’re being told to “check Thomas after she takes her vote.”

I disagree with Ben, however, that this was “smart.”  It left the White House triangulating against their own campaign message, depressing the base and risking not only their majority in the House but also down ticket races across the country that could suffer from low turnout in November.  The mandate will feed 33 state legislative efforts across the country to revoke it, 24 of which are constitutional amendments (the Missouri House approved theirs yesterday).  It will become a campaign issue in states like Florida, where Attorney General Bill McCollum is running for governor and threatening to file suit against it.  And nobody will notice if Republicans are lying through their teeth when they deliver John Shadegg’s message. If Rahm truly was the one who wanted to ditch the mandate and go with a stripped down bill, he was right about that.  But his plan to run against the “left” to pass this bill on behalf of PhRMA could have serious long term consequences.

Union members across the country are bitter about the way their leadership has sold them out, and now they’re being asked to suck up further hikes in the excise tax.  Interests groups are seeing their memberships dissipate.  Blog traffic is dropping.  The biggest blow to choice since the passage of the Hyde amendment 35 years ago will go down without any opposition from the choice groups, who are soaking up foundation money while choice as an issue dies the death of the anti-handgun initiatives.

Bart Stupak looks to be the only one with the courage of his convictions, and if he’s still willing to cast his vote in exchange for an up-or-down vote on funding each year (which he knows he will eventually win), leadership still might take it.  If you hear that Bart has come around for no discernible reason, you’ll know his deal came through.

Look, we had to get here…people had to see it in action.  I know I did.  I couldn’t imagine that members of congress would hand us all this campaign fodder, all the videos that their opposition can use against them for elections to come, if they had no intention of fighting.  But we’re watching a replay of the war supplemental:  after 80 progressives signed a letter saying they’d vote against any war funding that didn’t have troop withdrawal provisions, when their vote mattered only 32 remembered that pledge.  Magically just under the 39 needed to stop it from passing.  This is what we can expect from House progressives in the future.  Now that the number who can safely hold their principles and still allow the bill to pass is “zero,” that’s how many have them.

It doesn’t mean that progressive organizing is dead, rather that it can’t depend on unreliable partners or strength of resolve on the part of members of Congress.

Who would take these people seriously ever again? Who would follow them? Who would believe they were capable of leadership? In the end, they’ll toe whatever line Steny Hoyer tells them to…and anything in the interim is just a show.

donna_edwards Rep. Donna Edwards “Taking the FDL pledge… the pledge is consistent with what I’ve outlined as important components for any reform to be called reform. Signing up for the pledge now. But, progressives need to hold tight on this one. We cannot allow the language of robust reform to be used to describe something that is not.”
Raul Grijalva Rep. Raul Grijalva “Our insistence on this is based on real public policy — we don’t want a trigger, we don’t want a public plan that has no network of providers…I think the President respects the fact that these are principled issues we’re taking. This is not petty. I’m not saying “no” just to be spiteful, or petulant. This is a principled vote. It’s a principled decision.”
Ellison Rep. Keith Ellison “I will not vote for any healthcare that does not include a public option. I will not do it, that’s a guaranteed no vote and I will not be dissuaded from that.”
Waters Rep. Maxine Waters “For the majority, I think, of our members a public option is a compromise — we wanted single payer as you know, and we backed off because they said that was going to be impossible to do. Again they brought up the more conservative elements, etc. etc., and so we will not support any bill that does not have a public option in it.”
C001061 Rep. Emanuel Cleaver “I have said from the very beginning and I will say even to the end that I will not support any health care program that does not have a very strong public option. If there is no way to guarantee from the very beginning that every American will have access to adequate insurance coverage, that I will not support it.”
D000399 Rep. Lloyd Doggett “We do need reform of health care so desperately. And I’ve joined in the communications to our leadership,and I’ve said withing the Ways & Means Democratic Caucus — no public plan, no vote for me.”
F000116 Rep. Bob Filner “We need to do this now. People say we are rushing it, we have been waiting since 1948 to take health care reform seriously. We cant afford much longer at this rate….So lets get the public health option, and I am not going to vote for any healthcare reform plan that does not include such a public option….We need the guarantee of accessibility on day one. Any trigger as far as I am concerned, kills my support for the bill.”
N000002 Rep. Jerrold Nadler “In May, I began whipping my colleagues on the absolute necessity for a public option and convinced many of them to commit, as I have done, to voting against any health reform bill that excludes the public option. This commitment will give us leverage to oppose the insurance company lobbyists, and force inclusion of a robust public option in the developing health insurance reform plan.”
ME01 Rep. Chellie Pingree “I’m not going to vote for any House bill that doesn’t include a robust public option without any triggers or coops–that’s a must-have for me.”
H001040 Rep. Phil Hare The purpose of having a public option — and that’s why I can’t vote for any bill that doesn’t have one — is that without the public option, people don’t have any place else to go, except for the insurance companies.”
F000339 Rep. Barney Frank “I am a strong supporter of single payer, and I do reluctantly accept a full public option as the best we can do. So I am strongly committed to a public option and I will not vote for a bill that does not include a nationwide, genuine public plan … I am not talking now about a trigger, which I greatly oppose.”
M000087 Rep. Carolyn Maloney “I have decided I will not vote for a health care bill in the House that doesn’t include a real public option and I Pledge to uphold the public option principles agreed upon by the Progressive Caucus.”
W000738 Rep. Lynn Woolsey “Oh I will vote against anything that does not include … and it’s got to be real. I mean, you can call it anything you want … I believe there are enough of us, among the 120 in the tri-caucus and the progressive caucus, that can stop any votes…. Any health care reform that does not include a strong, robust public option for all Americans will not be health care reform.”
C001067 Rep. Yvette Clarke Rep. Clarke: There is no health care reform without a robust public option.

Eve Gittelson: You are saying you will not vote for any bill through conference that does not have a public option.

Rep. Clarke: That is correct.

C000714 Rep. John Conyers “The centerpiece of this reform is a robust Medicare-like public health insurance plan tied to the Medicare provider system. Like many of my colleagues in both the House and Senate, I will oppose any health care reform bill that lacks such a plan. I will also oppose any legislation that seeks to replace a robust public health insurance option with health care cooperatives or which ties the availability of the public option to a trigger mechanism.”