Steeping Mad: Health Care Reform and the Art of Losing Ungraciously

05/25/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • C. Nicole Mason Executive Director, Center for Research and Policy in the Public Interest and Ascend Fellow at the Aspen Institute

Things that have not occurred since the passage of healthcare reform legislation: (1) Obama hasn't sprouted horns and taken to raking the White House lawn with a pitch fork; (2) As a nation, we haven't started to ration food, jobs or money, and (3) Nancy Pelosi isn't holding up the sky with her index finger so it does not cave in on us.

However, as many Republicans and conservatives have prophesized, the world has come to an end -- at least as we know it. The fight over healthcare reform was not so much about reforming the system and extending coverage to nearly 40 million uninsured Americans as much as it was a fight about the direction and future of the country. The truth of the matter is that many of the provisions in the legislation will not take effect for several years and the short-term gains will benefit more than it would hurt.

The unspoken subtext leading up to the vote on healthcare was that, pass or fail, it would be a game changer for either party. Both Republicans and Democrats burned through an enormous amount of political capital on winning the debate and by extension the ultimate prize -- validity in the eyes of the American electorate.

Right now, Republicans and Tea Partiers seem like a bunch of sore losers. And not the kind that retreat to the locker room after losing the big game, but the kind that riot, turn hoses on you and threaten your life; the scary kind of loser.

Most disconcerting though, is that the Republican leadership has done very little to quell the unrest. With few exceptions, their standard response is that Americans are unhappy with the passage of the legislation and have the right to express their feelings. Express yes, threaten or cause harm no.

There are checks and balances in our legislative system that ensures that if a representative or senator does not fairly represent his or her constituency, they can vote him or her out of office. There is absolutely no need to cut propane lines or throw bricks through windows. This behavior is nothing short of domestic terrorism, and should be treated as such.

It is a new day. In one fell swoop, Obama managed to simultaneously restore faith in his agenda and push back tea partiers who grossly underestimated his political will and fortitude.

So, what's next? Judging from the fallout from the health care legislation, we still have a long way to go. For Obama, it will take grit, discipline and perseverance to move his agenda. For our part, Americans have to be prepared for the time it takes to overhaul a system, shift a culture and correct inequities that have been festering for generations. There is no way around it.

Every poll will say something different about the same set of issues. I am not so much into polls as much as I am into sensing the mood of a moment. Obama needed a game change -- something that would shift the mood from angst and pessimism to hope once more. And he got it. The passage of the healthcare reform legislation signals that reform and change is coming and that it is just a matter of time.