President Obama at Organizing for America Health Forum in August 2009 | Flickr Photo by Barack Obama
America finally made it. On Sunday night, a health care reconciliation bill with student loan reforms attached passed in the House and Senate with a 219-212 vote and President Obama came out to make a statement and declare "government still works for the people."
Obama added, "We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things." He stated proudly, "This is what change looks like."
The president was correct when he said that. Unfortunately, this is indeed what change looks like.
The beginning, middle, and end of this process leaves an indelible mark in the records and provides an example of what any meaningful reforms or proposed radical changes dealing with issues will face in the future.
The finish shows us all that in the closing moments of a process, which could ultimately be derailed, those with the most idealism and passion for humanity will be persuaded, cajoled, pressured, and browbeaten until they fall into line and vote for a corporate interpretation of reform Americans are told to believe is for the people.
It shows us that Democratic senators and representatives with amendments and additional policy suggestions who come ready to address populist fears of a corporate giveaway will be told to sit down, shut up and get out of the way so that incremental reform can get through, so that fears based on religious doctrine (e.g. abortion) can be attended to instead.
The process demonstrates that minority groups will be forced to make a sacrifice. When politicians are incapable of framing the debate in a way that upholds humanity, women, working class people, immigrants, the poor, etc will suffer and see the expansive nature of the reform or proposed policy change greatly reduced.
In America’s two party system, Americans now know the minority party or the party directly opposed to the president will do everything it can to stop the reform from passing, not because reform isn’t needed but because reform means the party that holds power will increase their power in the coming elections.
Opposition will dominate the conversation and debate. A media echo chamber will spread opposition talking points and pundits will reinforce this opposition through months of cable news programming.
Angry populist groups will rise up in the beginning of the process. Jostling for attention, they will find some way to make a mark and rise up as a key player in the political process.
The groups could potentially look at a wide array of beverages and research history for beverages that might have some link to the history of patriotism and revolution in America. The group might even take an urban dictionary reference like "teabagging" and appropriate the term as something to describe their attempt to kill the reform.
The party pushing for reform will note the fears of the opposition and cater to those fears even if they do not publicly believe the fears to be valid. The legislation will gel and be molded into a shape that the party pushing for reform hopes will decrease the amount of noise being created against the change. But, this will not win any support from the opposition.
Corporate media will promote opposition to maintain so-called objectivity, but only certain opposition. Nuanced opposition–the groups that promote going further than the current reform or taking a fundamentally different approach–will be written off.
Such nuanced opposition will look at past civil rights movements and stage sit-ins or other forms of nonviolent direct action to gain some press and attention for their cause. They will hold rallies just like those who oppose the reform do, but these actions will not receive much attention from the media. Suggesting one is in favor of the change but opposed to the framework for the debate and the bill being voted on will earn virtually no attention.
Corporations and special interest groups will get out in front of attempts to reform making sure they are taken care of first and foremost. At the expense of the people, they will receive pledges and gifts, offer provisions or sections to be included in the bill, and dine with and lobby those in the White House and on Capitol Hill to ensure that any reform considers their well-being first and foremost and ensures they play a role in the policy change.
It’s virtually guaranteed the American people will learn something about government. But, it’s also a given that Americans will become even more certain of the fact that they must compromise, they must have low expectations, and they must not "make the enemy the perfect of the good," which means any principles they wish to stand by will ultimately need to be sacrificed so some type of something can be completed.
Reform will likely come in the context of a for-profit system and not within the context of a framework for supporting the public good.Talk of strengthening the public may be used to seal the deal and sell reform to the American people but putting the people first and sidelining companies or corporations responsible for spurring the need for reform will most definitely not take place.
Different measures will be cobbled together and packaged with additional elements tacked on and slipped in. Political leaders will receive payments for votes that come in the form of political pork for their district. And, many of the measures and elements will not take effect for two, three, five, or almost ten years.
Government and the fact that it could provide certain services will be attacked as scared Americans cry out against "socialism," "takeovers," "affront[s] to God," and any other hyperbolic paranoid term or phrase they can write on their hand for speeches at rallies which will most certainly air on channels Americans can count on to provide fair and balanced news.
And, in the end, all political leaders will congratulate themselves and hope all Americans believe they actually did something meaningful to take care of the issue. The reform that finally passes will be called "landmark" and leaders on Capitol Hill will relish the fact that they are done. Finished, this will be the last time before they get re-elected again that they make any attempt to work on any legislation, which might be meaningful or interesting to the American people or which might potentially have a negative impact on them in their upcoming re-election.
This is what Americans can expect to happen when those in Washington try to bring about reforms that deal with issues. It is not necessarily what Americans should accept.
The process for health reform strengthened the control cynical idealists have over campaigns for change in this country. But, that does not mean we Americans have to allow others to continue to suffocate political conversation with narrow debates and lowered expectations.
The president will sign this change into law in the next week and give Americans the hope that health care will get better in the not-so-distant future.
There is no doubt that Democrats passed this now so they could wrap this up and hit the campaign trail for the 2010 midterm elections. They wanted to push this through so they could have something to run on and they were willing to get anything that could be called health reform passed now.
Chris Hedges wrote on the passage, "This bill is not about fiscal responsibility or the common good. The bill is about increasing corporate profit at taxpayer expense. It is the health industry’s version of the Wall Street bailout. It lavishes hundreds of billions in government subsidies on insurance and drug companies."
So, this is far from being a bill that establishes a civil right in America. It requires Americans to purchase private insurance from the same companies that created the problems that led Congress to open up discussion on reform in the first place.
As I understand civil rights, they are fought for and claimed by citizens, not forced upon them. Women and blacks were never forced to vote; they fought and won the right. So, those who wish for this to become a civil right should challenge this idea that this bill establishes a civil right.
How Americans understand this moment is critical. It is not wrong to harbor doubt nor is it wrong to not feel jubilant or cheerful about the passage of reform.
Take note of the fact that government is capable of passing legislation. If you have to, rejoice that politicians did what all Americans should expect politicians to do. But, more importantly, pledge to not let this be what you settle for.
Keep the conversation on healthcare as a human right going even when there are no longer Tea Party rallies with people waving signs and making outrageous comments that appall you, make you laugh hysterically, and force you to come to grips with the state of politics in American society.