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                                       politics + culture

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Obama's Health Care Speech

My take away from this historic speech.

We have our work cut out for us. But we are in a much better position tonight than yesterday.

I thought the speech showed courage. Obama's presidency is now staked on passing health care reform and that reform includes a public insurance option open to all Americans.

Further, Obama provided (and will continue to provide) the American public with a clear and emotional understanding that those who are most rooted in the status quo and opposed to reform are the insurance companies who have profited from that status quo.

It is a simple and powerful argument. Our nation has a moral obligation to end discrimination against the sick.

To that end, there are going to be new laws and regulations of the insurance industry passed with broad public support. Progressives should work together with all Democrats to make those laws the best laws possible. We should broaden our emphasis from a too tight emphasis on the public option. This makes political and ideological sense because the moral logic behind these new regulations (that no one should go broke if they get sick, that no one should die for lack of affordable care) make the best and most publicly understandable case against the big corporations and other interests most opposed to reform.

The question for progressive Democrats now is to choose how we are going to be stakeholders in this process.

It's much easier to take a position that really amounts to "heads we win and tails you lose" with the President than to effectively get his back. Politically, if we turn up our noses at the bill, we are turning our backs on a president who has a come a good way out on the limb with us. Truth is, if health care fails now that the president has extended himself, we all fail.

All Democrats need to realize that we are standing, as we always have been in this fight, together. My position has been that supporting Obama offered a good deal for progressives and the netroots if we chose to take him up on it. I think that belief was vindicated tonight.

The President devoted seven long paragraphs of his speech tonight to the public option. All of us who pushed Obama on standing for the public option have to understand the significance of that substantive commitment. Those seven paragraphs were not just a mention, but an argument for. Not just an explanation, but a defense of. And, at that, a defense rooted in a powerful critique of the insurance industry and its anti-competitive ways.

Will bloggers now turn our guns on the insurance industry and cease needless attacks on proven progressives?

It makes pragmatic sense.

Standing with the president and building public sentiment against the insurance industry is the most powerful way to create space for Blue Dogs to move from the GOP.

That is what we all want. Not just as policy but as an expression of our moral compass. Comprehensive healthcare reform is a crucial civil rights battle of our times.

Yes, progressives should whip Congress to stand strong for a robust public option, and, yes that will be a tough battle, but we should also fight so that the regulatory reforms and provisions in this bill are the strongest possible. That makes political and moral sense, too.

At the end of the day, we should be talking to our neighbors and readers about Wellpoint and Cigna, not building misplaced outrage against proven allies.

Obama defined the limits of the possible tonight. Our job is to bend those limits to towards lasting progress on health care reform by building sentiment against insurers and in favor of comprehensive reform. Yes, there will be differences among us about the exact specifics of that reform and the tactics used to get there. However, it is clear tonight that...aside from cynics shouting and jeering from the sandbars...we are in this boat together.

Whether and how we get to the opposite shore is up to us.