I had a passionate discussion on the phone this morning with my friend Tom G (in LA). He asked me when I would stop defending the Democrats and admit that they are wrong because they seem incapable of bringing about the kind of healthcare reform he advocates.
I don't think we ever got to exactly what his version of the best way to bring universal healthcare to our fellow citizens would be. But my side of the discussion was that if the kinds of changes that are already in the proposed healthcare reform bill had come about somehow under the previous administration and/or Bush Senior's or Reagan's, Democrats, at least what some still call "liberal" Democrats and what many now call "Progressive" Democrats would have (or at least should have) been dancing in the street.
The idea that no one will be able to have their health insurance cut off if they lose their job or move from one to another or because of a "pre-existing condition" or any of the myriad other ways the insurance companies have found to deny coverage or limit it to the point of uselessness should have all Democrats, and especially the "liberals" and "progressives" very pleased.
But because the terribly labeled "public option" (it sounds like a restroom or worse) may not make it into the final bill, many so-called "liberal" and even more so-called "progressive" Democrats are acting like Hitler just invaded Poland or the details of the Holocaust have just been revealed.
Sorry, but my lifetime's experience coupled with a lifetime of reading and studying history etc. leads me to conclude that progress is progress and if that's what you're for you should rejoice in whatever progress can be made while working for more.
When I was young I wanted change to be instantaneous and I joined movements that pushed for change to come faster and more universally in Civil Rights and later in stopping the clearly senseless (especially in retrospect for those not there at the time or not informed enough to realize) war in Viet Nam, and for equal rights for women and for people not as easily defined in terms of gender and for people whose attractions were for the same gender as their own and etc.
I also fought and worked for more democracy, more equality and more transparency on every level. In some cases those struggles brought about real change that may have come much more slowly or not at all if there hadn't been those of us fighting for those changes.
But, they still didn't come overnight, even if in some cases it seemed like it. The struggle for equal rights for women is formally over a century old and informally it's been going on for far longer. And ditto for many other changes. In some areas, there seems to be no turning back, and then, unfortunately, some segments of humanity do (slavery, racial and gender discrimination and oppression, etc.).
The point is, those who become impatient and leave the fight for change through legal and democratic means—in order to try and force change through violence, or drop out of the struggle entirely because change isn't occurring fast enough—only contribute to the backward trend in whatever areas they were struggling for progress in.
Despite the worst financial crisis in our history, maybe the world's at least in the past few centuries, FDR was not able to push through Social Security as we know it. He was able to initiate the program and establish the justification for it for widows and children and over the next several years was able to expand it. Then over the next several decades it was improved on more and now is where we know it and most of those receiving it are very grateful for the help it provides.
Even LBJ with a much greater majority in Congress than Obama has was only able to get Medicare established so that older people could be guaranteed healthcare, but he was unable to get through universal healthcare. If I had my way, we'd just expand Medicare to cover everyone, and pay for it with tax increases for the rich (taxes were almost twice as much on the wealthiest even after Reagan got through with his tax cuts!) whose portion of the wealth in the USA has grown exponentially since the rightwing Republicans began to have more and more influence not only over our national government but over the media and its discussion of these issues. [And over an economy that they brought to the brink of destruction, and will again if or when they regain power.]
But the reality is I don't get my way. Nor do most of us (and if we did there'd be chaos because we'd all have a different version of what would be best, just read the comments on this blog or any blog that deals with any of these issues). What we get is either gradual change, either progressive or backward, depending on who is controlling the government and the media and therefore the public discussion of what options are even viable.
When there is actual large scale and abrupt change in either direction, it is usually if not always (I'd say always but I don't want an endless comment thread referring to various inaccurate and unreliable Internet sources for wingnut arguments) a result of violence or causes great violence, and if you're pushing for that kind of change then you have to be ready for the violence that ensues.
Our last president wanted to bring about that kind of large scale and abrupt change in the Middle East, so we invaded Iraq. You wanna tell all those who lost loved ones and continue to as a result of that that it's all worth it because Iraq actually had elections? I don't. Nor do I want to see rightwing Republicans regain power as a result of too many voters and activists and bloggers and commenters and etc. losing faith in Obama and his "progressive" credentials because change doesn't happen fast enough or on a large enough scale to satisfy their ideals.
ideals are easy, change is very very difficult. I'm grateful for the changes this administration has already brought about. There are already more people covered by healthcare insurance than were just six months ago, there are less people losing their jobs (though still too many obviously so don't bother to make that comment, but even with the rise in that figure according to the latest data, it is still less than a third of the number who lost their jobs in January just before Obama took office and began to change things), the world financial system is at least for the moment much more stable than it was when Obama took the oath of office and there are more people working in government with progressive ideals than there are those with fundamentalist Christian ideas that demand obedience to their interpretation of the Bible (or their leaders') over the Constitution than there were ten months ago.
And there's much more. That isn't universal healthcare or a total withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan or holding accountable those who caused the financial crisis etc. etc. nor is it creating two million new jobs etc. etc. But if you think that can happen over night or even in one year, then your not a big fan of democracy in action only in theory. Fight for what you believe is best, but expect a long struggle with many setbacks and don't get discouraged. And if you do, shake it off and get back in the struggle, and as Joe Hill once said:
"Don't mourn, organize!"
[PS: It would be so easy to just post a simple statement of what my ideals are and what I'd like to see happen. I'd like, as my friend Sue and others have said, to see either Medicare expanded to include everyone, or everyone to get the same kind of healthcare that those in Congress do. I also believe everyone has the right to food and shelter and education and a job that does no harm but in fact contributes to the community, including the world community. But those are just ideals, something to work toward, which I have done for most of my life. In the meantime, real every day life goes on in which these ideals are mostly meaningless to most people in dire situations regarding all of the above. So any kind of change for the better, no matter how small, I'm for.]
[(from a response to some of the comments on this post—PPS: I would love to see healthcare coverage for everyone. I marched on Washington, and in Washington, many times over the years, and took part in demonstrations and protests around the country many times for many issues and at locations that focused on various branches of the government and their agencies under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Some of these protests had half a million people or more at them, some only a dozen or so. But I did it regularly for years and years and years. Some of it helped change some things, and some didn't. But along with many others, I still did it, and still do it. Where are the protestors marching and demonstrating in DC for "the public option" or whatever version of healthcare reform they champion and feel is not being recognized or enacted? All I see is rightwing protests in which the main focus seems to be denigrating Obama and anything he is trying to do. It's as if the only people protesting and demonstrating in any larrge numbers in the '60s were the so-called "hardhats" (short for the rightwingers of that time) and none or very few against the war. Now's the time for a major march on DC in favor of radical change in healthcare coverage and other more left leaning goals (i.e. not backward to more of the rightwing practices that got us into the mess we're in in the first place), even if all it accomplishes is pushing Obama and this Congress a little bit further in that direction, rather than responding to the pressure from corporate power on one side and rightwing media/misinformed angry crowds on the other. In other words, all the pressure coming from the right. Lefties, get some of your idealist friends together and organize a massive march on DC. We did it. Several times.]