Saturday, March 20, 2010
(with hat tip to blackwaterdog at Kos)
President Obama brought game to his appearance before House Dems today, beginning with a text from Abraham Lincoln--"I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have"--but pointed out how popular this reform may turn out to be once people see how it works, and he lists some of the reforms that begin this year, so that the health care system begins to work for the people and not just for the insurance companies. He did this while wondering why Republican leaders are warning Democrats not to vote for this unpopular plan--are they really worried that Dems will lose their elections? Or could it be that they know that once reform goes into effect, people will see how it works, and that Republicans have lied about it all along.
Even if you haven't followed the debate very closely, the three videos of this speech are worth the combined half hour of your time. If you can spare only ten minutes or so, go to the last one. This part however is Barack Obama at his most incisive, most insistent, and really at the top of his game.
In this section of President Obama's remarks to the House Dem caucus today, he briskly, deftly and emphatically summarizes the healthcare bill, and suggests why the House should vote for it. "Do it for the folks who are scared right now" because they can't afford to get sick, they can't even afford the insurance premiums that won't pay enough, or pay at all, if they do just...simply...get sick. This is where we are in the United States of America.
President Obama concludes his final talk on health insurance reform to the Dem caucus of the House today. It's one of the historic moments of our time--and a speech that will be central to that history. All I can think of is the day I stayed home from school, sick in bed, and read Profiles in Courage. We're at one of those moments now.
"As Democrats move ever closer to the magic number of 216, it's unsurprising that the language used to describe the debate has lifted itself out of the depths of mere politics and vaulted into the realm of virtue. Courage is the most essential value. Who is the Antigone -- who built the "dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear," as Martin Luther King put it. For whom has this fight been easy? For whom has it been hard?
Whatever you believe about health care reform, it's hard to escape the conclusion that for one party, opposing reform was expedient, and for another, supporting it required the summoning of an uncommon degree of bravery and a resistance to every base political instinct. (There are plenty of Democrats who held out because they wanted something else and knew they could get it. They're not very courageous. It's easy to spot the difference.)
Why has Barack Obama risked his presidency for this crusade? Why has he spent more time on this domestic issue than any other president has spent on any other issue in recent memory? Why has he done so despite the manifest public unpopular of the case? The answer opponents will give is some variant of Obama's conviction that he must impose his solution on America no matter the cost, even to him; that his actions are part of a larger crusade; that he cannot legitimize government as an active force for good without government taking over the health care system. (Chicago politics, socialism, Saul Alinsky.) But this argument doesn't track with an argument that opponents have been desperate to make: that health care is not popular now and won't be popular in time to reward Democrats.
And it fortifies, indirectly, the argument that Obama is uniquely courageous: his stubborness in the face of public opinion, in the face of advisers who begged him to move on, in the face of a revolt from his base, is based upon his own conviction that what he's doing is the right thing to do, primarily, and upon electoral politics secondarily."
Sure, it's still a long way from "Health is not for sale." And it's of course insane that these baby steps should be so outrageously resisted. But it's not nothing. In fact, it's another miracle, like November 2008 and January 20, 2009. Yes, we can. And with any luck, by Monday it'll be yes, we did.