A hiccup or renewed social change?

The supporters of the Democratic Party and the Obama Administration are championing the passage of the health insurance reform bill in the House of Representatives.  We would expect them to do so.  Besides trying to fashion policies that benefit the nation they are message machines that, like everything public or private that is seeking public approval, embellishes its accomplishments and minimizes its failures.

As Robert Reich reported on his blog:

The significance of Obama’s health legislation is more political than substantive. For the first time since Ronald Reagan told America that government is the problem, Obama’s health bill reasserts that government can provide a major solution. In political terms, that’s a very big deal.

This is important; it represents a hiccup in the conservative Republican Party’s plan to capitalize on an inherent distrust of government that so many Americans have.  For the moment, President Obama and progressive-to-moderate Democrats stopped the hemorrhaging of power from the public sector to the private sector.  However this bill should not be mistaken as a regeneration of the New Deal and the Great Society.  As Reich said,

Most Americans continue to be suspicious of government. That distrust is deeply etched in our culture and traditions. Our system of government was devised by people who distrusted government and intentionally created checks and balances, three separate branches, and almost insuperable odds against getting big things done. The period extending from 1933 to 1965 – the New Deal and the Great Society – was an historical aberration from that long tradition, animated by the unique crises of the Great Depression and World War II, and the social cohesion that flowed from them for another generation. Ronald Reagan merely picked up where Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover left off.

Passage of this bill “allows us to live another day.”  What do we do with that time?  The general strategy has to be bring the independent or moderate voters who supported Barack Obama in 2008 to join him in Hope 2.0; not being afraid to rely on the federal government to address problems where the private sector has failed.   Here are two specific suggestions:

  1. You can keep tabs of all the things that government does well.  Remind yourself that the conservative Republican demonization of everything government (except what directly benefits them) is poor public policy and not reflective of reality.  If you want a good source for government accomplishments, look at the “Government Is Good” section of the Occasional Planet.
  2. You can try to avoid engaging in the belligerence of so many conservative Republicans who constantly attack government and the people who need it most.  There are some Republicans (not necessarily conservative) who are thoughtful and compassionate.  They have their own web site at http://progressiverepublican.ning.com/.   And reach out to Republicans as film-maker Michael Moore has done as he tries to be gracious about “this victory.”   In an open letter to Republicans, he provides a list of benefits from the bill such as:

Thanks to last night’s vote, that 23-year-old of yours who will be hit one day by a drunk driver and spend six months recovering in the hospital will now not go bankrupt because you will be able to keep him on your insurance policy.

Many individuals in our society are better off because of passage of the bill.  Regrettably, that’s a threat to many conservative Republicans.  They want to think that passage of the bill was just a hiccup in their efforts to dismantle government.  We need to stay vigilant to take this small victory and use it as a first step toward regenerating the New Deal and Great Society.