Thank you, Mr. President

by Nathan Empsall

How’s this for history? The first black President and the first female Speaker of the House just brought America’s health insurance system from the 19th century to the 21st century, doing what no politician before them was able to achieve.

The new law, while insuring 30 million and lowering the deficit, is not perfect. It does little to address cost containment. It contains a mandate without strong enough subsidies. The Medicare reimbursement issue persists. You might blame Barack Obama for these imperfections. You might say that had he shown more forceful leadership, he would have had a stronger bill. And you might be right. But consider this:

In 1993, President Clinton tried to pass health care reform, and didn’t even get a floor vote.

In 1974, President Nixon tried to pass health care reform, but couldn’t quite close the deal with the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson opted to pass Medicare rather than universal coverage, believing it more politically doable.

In 1945, President Truman, like Clinton, proposed universal health care but was unable to get a vote.

In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt wanted to pass universal health care, but thought it too politically unpopular and didn’t even try.

In 1912, former President Theodore Roosevelt campaigned on the promise of universal health care and couldn’t even recapture the White House.

You can claim that the bill’s inadequacies are proof that President Obama failed to show true leadership on this issue, but history will tell you otherwise. He showed the courage that LBJ and FDR lacked, and his persistance did what Clinton, Nixon, and Truman were unable to do. I call that leadership.

Some things are worth losing over, and this is one of them. To last night’s 219 heroes and to President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and Majority Leader Reid: thank you. This is the most important progressive victory since the Civil Rights movement. Sleep well knowing that whether you lose your next re-election or retire in 30 years, it was worth it.

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