Barack Obama has been talking about health care reform since 2007. Back then he talked about single-payer and universal health care – and you elected Obama with a landslide victory. While you didn’t get universal health care or single-payer – you did get health care reform.
Last night’s vote in the House of Representatives to pass health care reform was historic. But what makes it so amazing is that the Democrats didn’t cave – they actually passed a huge piece of important legislation despite the lies and fear mongering spewing from the mouths of Republicans and so-called “conservatives.”
The campaign to misinform you about health care was quite effective. Support for health care reform did fall substantially as more and more Americans started to believe Republican liars. Sarah Palin kicked off the “death panel” lie. And who knows where all the crazy numbers about the cost of the bill came from – yesterday someone said the bill could cost $10 trillion. Abortion, the GOP’s old fallback position, became a central theme for the opposition. Some Republicans even said that this bill will not only fund abortions but it will “promote” them – as if you’re going to see ads on TV for abortions next to ads for Viagra.
The list of outright lies are too many to list but they’re irrelevant now.
What is relevant is that Democrats did what they needed to do and they didn’t cower in the face of the vicious hate-filled opposition to health care reform. They didn’t quit when they were called socialists, communists, niggers, faggots, baby killers and when they were spit on. So if you have a moment, send your member of Congress an e-mail or call them on the phone and say thank you.
And remember that while it’s easy to say that there’s no difference between Democrats and Republicans – there is. Paul Krugman made a great point in his column today by highlighting a fundamental distinction between what Democrats and Republicans believe.
The day before Sunday’s health care vote, President Obama gave an unscripted talk to House Democrats. Near the end, he spoke about why his party should pass reform: “Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made … And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.”
And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation.
The GOP sees the world in purely cynical political terms. They don’t see you. They don’t see your family. They only see the next election and the next tax cut or war profit. And maybe Gingrich is right, maybe passing civil rights legislation was wrong politically, but who, besides racists, can argue that it wasn’t the right thing to do.
Looking back at our nation’s history, how many politically challenging decisions were still clearly the right choice? Civil rights, Medicare, Social Security, and let’s not forget that great Republican President Abraham Lincoln who ended slavery despite a nation that had yet to cleanse itself of overt racism. President Lincoln was murdered for that decision.
No, despite the cynicism of people like Gingrich and Karl Rove, politicians sometimes need to make unpopular decisions, even if that means they will lose their seat in Congress. That’s what a republic is. To paraphrase James Madison, a republic is virtuous men making virtuous decisions in spite of what an excited faction may want.
So please, call your members of Congress and tell them you’ve got their back. Tell them you will vote for them in November. While you’re at it, why not sign up to volunteer for them too?