THE BLOG
05/15/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Final Battle for Health Care Reform

I don't know about you, but I am tired of hearing the mainstream media repeat the Republican mantra that "If health care reform passes, the Democrats will lose in November," and "If health reform doesn't pass, Obama's presidency is over." The conservative corporate cabal that controls this country has decided that whether or not health care reform legislation is passed, it will be a disaster for President Obama and progressive-to-moderate Democrats. (The conservative Blue Dog Democrats are not moderate -- to identify them as such is a misnomer.)

Why are the media repeating these lose-lose talking points -- lose if the legislation passes, lose if the legislation doesn't pass? The media have adopted the GOP's propaganda that no matter what happens, whether health care reform passes or fails, it will be bad for the president and the Democrats. The more they repeat this -- the more one repeats a lie, the more people believe that it is true.

We are now being told what to think. Isn't that how we ended up in Iraq, by accepting GOP talking points? Who gives the Republican Party the right to tell us what will be or not be? I'm always amazed that journalists repeat talking points as if they are absolute truths. What happened to investigative journalism? While it is true that that low-ball journalism has been around since Thomas Jefferson ran against John Adams, at least then, the public had relief from the daily propaganda that passes for journalism, particularly broadcast journalism, today.

If I believed in conspiracies, I would be tempted to think that certain corporate media outlets were complicit with the Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats, and the insurance industry to destroy all efforts to reform the health care system that is crippling Americans economically while making a few CEOs even wealthier than they already are. Corporate brothers and sisters are part of the same family and they are controlling this nation. When big profits are at stake, they check their sense of democracy and fair play at the door. The bottom line trumps democracy -- and decency, too, it seems.

The middle class is slowing devolving into an underclass without the benefit of affordable health care, without access to effective public education, without affordable housing -- all this while one percent of the population feeds its insatiable appetite for increased wealth at any cost. The besieged middle class is easily led into its own destruction by the misinformation we are fed.

I do not like labels, but if I have to label myself politically, I'd have to define myself as a Progressive. So, to my Progressive friends who favor a Public Option, as I do -- I say this: It was the left, the liberal left of the late 1960s who led us to the election of Nixon and Reagan. How? People on the left began to squabble among themselves to the point where no one would listen to reason. Each faction wanted its own way and accused anyone who didn't agree with them of being sell-outs. They were like spoiled children or the very self-righteous ideologues they accused the right of being. The chaos on the left frightened Americans; it seemed as if the nation itself was plunging into chaos -- and Americans wanted order. Yes, they wanted order -- what an earlier American Republican President, Warren Harding, called "a return to normalcy."

Richard Nixon was attuned to the public's fears and he responded with a 1968 campaign that promised "Law and Order," not the television program, that came decades later--but law and order on the streets of America. The public was tired of upheaval, of protests in the streets, of the Vietnam war, of urban riots -- and Nixon promised an end to them. Instead of continuing with the progressive initiatives of Lyndon Johnson who sincerely wanted to end poverty in the United States, we entered a period of conservative control that subsided only during the brief Carter administration and during Clinton's eight years in office.

If Gerald Ford had not pardoned Nixon, Carter might not have won in 1976. As for Clinton, the right, as we all know, dogged Clinton throughout his presidency. In the long run, the only thing they could accuse him of was prevaricating about his relationship with a young woman, as if he was the first man who had ever done that. For this, the GOP wasted the nation's time -- and succeeded in their goal, which was to prevent President Clinton from moving forward with his agenda. In spite of this, though, Clinton left office with a surplus, leaving the nation on sound economic footing.

Today, Richard Nixon seems like a liberal compared to the ideologues that control his party. Today's conservatives do not seem to believe in democracy. If one pays attention to the ravings of Liz Cheney, they do not believe that everyone has a right to an attorney. If you listen to the Tea Baggers, they do not believe the government should control the skyrocketing cost of health care premiums, they do not believe the government should regulate the financial institutions that plunged us into a financial crisis of historic proportions, and don't believe we should protect our natural resources. Now, conservative, so-called educators in Texas want to re-write American history.

If Progressives are not careful, though, we will repeat what we did at the end of the Sixties, by creating a situation that pushes the middle to the "mad men" and women on the right who are now licking their lips in anticipation of the moment they return to power.

This is not the time for Progressives to attack or protest against those Democrats who are trying to pass the legislation, no matter how imperfect it is. When Social Security was passed in the 1930s, President Roosevelt, in order to keep his "Solid South" Democrats on board, had to make certain compromises. To ensure that African Americans would not be covered by Social Security, southern Democrats insisted that domestic workers, teachers, laborers -- all the jobs that black Americans worked in -- would not be covered by Social Security. If this meant some white Americans would not be covered either, they did not care. The essential thing to them was to exclude black people. In order to get the legislation through and signed into law, Roosevelt agreed to these exclusions. He also agreed to remove health care coverage for all Americans from the original bill. Later, though, those who were excluded from the Social Security legislation -- were added. A shrewd and savvy politician, Roosevelt took what was available when he could get it.

Progressives, we might not be able to achieve the Public Option right now, but we are closer to passing health care reform legislation than we have been since FDR's administration. No, the bill isn't perfect, it is not all that we would like it to be, but it does move us forward.

If Progressives do not unite behind this bill, but instead resort to insisting like children that it is our way or the highway, we will leave the door open to the return of conservatives on the far Right of the GOP, just as we did in 1968. Let's learn from history, not repeat it.