Big Pharma and Big Insurance hate the public insurance option even more than they hate big Medicare discounts. And although the President has sounded as if he would welcome it, political operatives in the White House have quietly reassured the industries that it won’t be included in the final bill.
Obama should let any Democratic foot-draggers know that if they do not get with the program, he will un-elect them and put in Democrats more in tune with his priorities. The threat would be credible, as he is one of the great campaigners of modern political history.
Obama’s desire to find a common ground was part of his attraction. This is not what most progressives find troubling. Rather, it is Obama’s reluctance to use the vast powers of the presidency to drive the enactment of his top domestic priority that many of his longtime supporters simply cannot understand.
The ideal of universal care has revolved around two poles. In the 1930s, liberals imagined a universal right to health care tied to compulsory insurance, like Social Security. Johnson based Medicare on this idea, and it survives today as the “single-payer model” of universal health care, or “Medicare for all.” The alternative proposal, starting with Eisenhower, was to create a market for health care based on private insurers and employers.
The 30-year class war the rich launched against the working people in this country (and reached its apogee during the George W. Bush years), has left the middle class reeling and wounded. Only bold federal action that puts something concrete in the palms of middle-class Americans can begin to turn these dire social conditions around.
Rather than enshrine him in a giant marble bust to sit alongside Henry Clay’s, as some have suggested, this is their time to follow in the footsteps Everett Dirksen trod in 1964 and yield to an idea whose time has come, and to build a far greater monument to the legacy of their fallen friend. It’s what Ted would want.