Thomas Frank: It's time for Obama to channel Harry Truman on health-care reform
[Thomas Frank is a historian and founder of The Baffler magazine.]
What is at stake in the debate over health care is more than the mere crafting of policy. The issue is now the identity of the Democratic Party.
By now we know that Democrats can bail out traditional Republican constituencies like Wall Street, but it remains to be seen whether they can enact a convincing version of their own signature issue, health-care reform.
At this point, it's fair to ask whether Democrats remember why health care is their issue in the first place. As health-care debates always have done, this one has pushed to the fore all the big questions about the rightful role of government, and too many Democrats have sought to avoid them with mushy appeals to consensus and bipartisanship. The war is on and if Democrats want to win they need to start fighting.
In the early years of the campaign for national health insurance, the battle lines were more clearly drawn. Back in the '40s, the issue was part of an "economic bill of rights," a grand Rooseveltian idea pushed by President Harry S. Truman.
Truman had a knack for populist phrasing. "In 1932 we were attacking the citadel of special privilege and greed," he declared in accepting the Democratic presidential nomination in 1948. "We were fighting to drive the money changers from the temple. Today, in 1948, we are now the defenders of the stronghold of democracy and of equal opportunity, the haven of the ordinary people of this land and not of the favored classes or the powerful few."
The Democrats won that particular battle with "the powerful few" but, fighting among themselves as usual, failed to enact national health insurance. Health-care reform nonetheless remained their great cause, their high-voltage appeal to average voters, even those who otherwise saw them as a Harvard-and-Hollywood elite. And even during feeble reform campaigns like President Bill Clinton's 1993 attempt, the opposite half of the populist melodrama—in that case, the insurance industry—duly acted out its corporate bad-guy role.
This year things were supposed to be different. Democrats hold good-sized majorities in both houses of Congress and are led by an eloquent president who won an undeniable mandate last November. This time, the Democrats got the traditional opponents of health-care reform on board: "Ex-Foes of Health-Care Reform Emerge as Supporters" declared a headline in the Washington Post in March, over a story describing a friendly summit meeting between Mr. Obama and various health-care industry representatives.
This time the health-care fight was to be what official Washington loves: An act of cold consensus, not of hot idealism or Trumanesque populism...
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DOUGLAS FIELD - 8/31/2009
**THIS OLD WORLD ORDER OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT OF OUR POORER AMERICANS NEEDS ENLIGHTENED POLITICAL MINDS AND HEARTS TO VIEW GOD DIFFERENTLY THEN $$$? NO MATTER WHAT THEIR POLITICAL PARTY AFFILIATION ???
**WHEN WILL OUR WEALTHY ELITE AMERICANS ABATE THEIR ASSAULT ON POORER AMERICANS WITH THEIR MONETARY CONTROL OF OUR IVORY TOWER U.S. CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE NEW WORLD ORDER ???
**THERE ARE NOT MANY MORE DISTRACTIONS LEFT WHICH ARE AVAILABLE FOR OUR WEALTHY ELITE AMERICANS TO HIDE BEHIND IN NOT TAKING PROPER CARE OF ALL OUR AMERICANS IN A HUMANE FASHION !!!
**RALPH NADER ATTEMPTED TO EDUCATE AMERICAN VOTERS ABOUT U.S. CORPORATE POWER IN AMERICA AND HOW THEY CONTROL OUR CONGRESSIONAL PEOPLE THROUGH THEIR POCKET BOOK (POLITICAL DONATIONS). WITHOUT THE DOUGH $$$ THESE U.S. CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD DO NOT GET RE~ELECTED TO CONGRESS.TO STAY IN POLITICAL OFFICE IN AMERICA,ONE HAS TO BARTER YOUR VOTES IN CONGRESS AND REPRESENT POWER INTERESTS IN RETURN FOR THE BUCK$.
**POORER AMERICANS HAVE NEVER HAD THE $$$ LOBBY TO INFLUENCE THIS CORRUPT POLITICAL CONCEPT (of horse trading political votes for political contributions) TO ACHIEVE PROPER HEALTH ~CARE OR LEGAL REPRESENTATION FOR ALL OUR MIDDLE ~ CLASS AND WORKING POOR AMERICANS.
**AMERICAN IVORY TOWER U.S.CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS OF THE FREE WORLD HAVE PASSED FEDERAL LEGISLATION IN WASHINGTON DC TO SPEND 50 BILLION AMERICAN TAX $$$ ON THE INTERNATIONAL FIGHT AGAINST AIDS OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS WHILE THEIR OWN AMERICAN CITIZENS ARE BEING TOLD BY THIS SAME U.S.CONGRESS THAT NATIONAL HEALTH CARE AND PROPER LEGAL REPRESENTATION FOR MIDDLE CLASS AND WORKING POOR CITIZENS IS UNAFFORDABLE.
*** WEALTHY ELITE AMERICANS (WHO ARE ONLY 1% OF OUR USA POPULATION) SADLY ALSO CONTROL HOW OUR U.S.CONGRESS SPENDS THEIR BUDGET TRILLION$ AND HAVE OBVIOUSLY FOUND MORE WORTHY INTERNATIONAL CITIZENS THEN OUR OWN DESPERATE AND NEEDY POOR TO ASSIST !!!
~Poorer Americans Nationwide only get 400 million $$$ per year for legal representation allocated them by CONGRESS~
**Middle Class and Working Poor Americans are unable to afford proper legal representation in their Civil, Criminal and Family Courts of law all across America causing tremendous hardships nationwide,but these great minds and callous hearts in our American Congress have found others Worldwide more needy then their own citizens who are being falsely incarcerated,wrongfuly executed,losing their homes or apartments,losing child custody or visitation with their children etc?
**Not being afforded proper legal representation by our U.S. Congress has created a total breakdown of the American judicial system for our poorer Americans because the our U.S. Courts punish all of us little people if we are not assisted with proprer legal counsel.
**It is a known fact that our average Middle Class and Working Poor Americans without proper legal representation in all of our American Courts of law lose their legal cases to the better financed who are able to afford lawyers.
**Lawyers For Poor Americans is now actively in the hunt for International Countries and Leaders Worldwide to help raise 5 Billion Dollar$ for our slighted poorer Americans who have had their own American Congress turn their backs on their desperate needs in not affording them proper legal representation.
**Troy Davis and Mumia Abu ~Jamal are 2 perfect examples of American citizens who never had proper legal representation or defense investigations afforded them by our U.S. Congressional Leaders Of The Free World in their initial criminal trials in (Georgia and Pennsylvania) who might very well have to pay the ultimate price of possibly being completely innocent and falsely executed in the near future.
**These two poor Americans are among tens of thousands of legal cases nationwide that never were afforded proper legal representation or proper defense investigations at their initial trials. **We the public really have no idea if these men are innocent or guilty until they both are given fair legal representation at their new future trials.
**Improper murder trials and needless deaths due to lack of healthcare take place in Third World Countries all the time.*** Why should average Middle~Class and Working Poor Americans in the Wealthiest Country Of The World be treated as if they are living a Third World Life Style ??