The battle over health care reform is not only pitting liberals against conservatives but also stirring up old feuds on the left.
In an appearance Tuesday on MSNBC’s Countdown, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas criticized Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s threat to vote against health care reform legislation as “a very Ralph Nader-esque approach to politics” and indicated that he would consider such a vote to be legitimate grounds for a primary challenge.
“It’s not perfect,” Moulitsas said of the current health care legislation, “but it’s a first step, and God knows it’s taken us a long time to even get our toe in the door. … If somebody like Kucinich wants to block that, I find that completely reprehensible.”
In an appearance on Countdown the previous night, Kucinich had called the current bill “a giveaway to the insurance industry” and reaffirmed his position that he “couldn’t support the bill if it didn’t have a robust public option and at least if it didn’t have something that was going to protect consumers from these rampant premium increases.”
“If that sounded like a no [vote], you’re correct,” Kucinich told guest host Lawrence O’Donnell.
“Ralph Nader paved the way for eight years of George Bush,” Moulitsas explained to O’Donnell on Tuesday, referring to Nader’s third-party campaign for president in 2000. “I’m going to hold people like Dennis Kucinich responsible for the 40,000 Americans that die each year from a lack of health care.”
“Is it reprehensible enough to mount a primary challenge against him?” O’Donnell asked. “Is it possible to be too liberal?”
“Absolutely,” Moulitsas responded. “I don’t think he gets a pass. I don’t care what his excuse is. … He”s not elected to grandstand and to give us his ideal utopian society. … He’s not representing the uninsured constituents in his district by pretending to take the high ground here. … I think that’s the perfect excuse and rationale for a primary challenge.”
Animosity from Moulitsas towards Kucinich goes back many years. In early 2007, when the possibility of a Kucinich presidential campaign was being raised, the blogger wrote, “When talking about Kucinich, I usually leave it at ‘ugh’. I’ve found that much kinder than actually getting into Kucinich’s record.”
He then proceeded to sum up a decade’s worth of attacks on Kucinich’s more utopian positions, concluding, “He used his 2004 run for president to score dates. Luckily, he’s married this time around so we’ll be spared that pathetic display of desperation.”
Moulitsas himself, however, might be accused of empty grandstanding on this occasion, since — in the words of an ascerbic post by blogger David Dayen at FireDogLake — there is “one flaw in the brilliant plan.”
“The Ohio primary takes place on May 4, and the filing deadline for candidates was February 18,” Dayen notes. “Kucinich has no Democratic challenger. … In addition, as Markos well knows (and I don’t blame him for being baited into an answer about a primary challenge which is physically impossible; Lawrence O’Donnell needs a researcher) it’s pretty difficult putting together a primary challenge. … In fact, they often take multiple cycles.”
But one diarist at Daily Kos reacted with far greater dismay to the attack on Kucinich, calling it, “the night the left in America died.”
“It looks like the purge of the left and the final push for the corporate-care insurance bill is on,” writes poplist2003. “Topping it all off was the astonishing attack on Dennis Kucinich tonight by Markos on the Countdown show, culminating in a call for a primary challenge (presumably by a nice centrist corporate ‘Democrat’ – how about Harold Ford?) to Kucinich. (Would Keith have tee’d up that assault the way that Lawrence O’Donnell did?) … The bill itself is bad enough. But what is truly tragic is the way that nominally progressive entities are turning on the most progressive members of their own party.”
This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast March 9, 2010.