Final pre-election visit by Barack Obama to Iowa.Image by via Flickr
A news article taken from, Tuesday, 23-Mar-2010

THE day before Sunday's health-care vote, President Barack Obama gave an unscripted talk to House Democrats.

Near the end, he spoke about why his party should pass reform: "Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made ... And this is the time to make true on that promise."

On the other side, here's what Mr Newt Gingrich, the Republican former Speaker of the House had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, "they will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years" by passing civil rights legislation.

Consider the contrast: On one side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism.

Think about what it means to condemn health reform by comparing it to the Civil Rights Act.

Who in modern America would say that LBJ did the wrong thing by pushing for racial equality?

And that cynicism has been the hallmark of the whole campaign against reform.

Yes, a few conservative policy intellectuals, after making a show of thinking hard about the issues, claimed to be disturbed by reform's fiscal implications (but were strangely unmoved by the clean bill of fiscal health from the Congressional Budget Office) or to want stronger action on costs (even though this reform does more to tackle health-care costs than any previous legislation).

For the most part, however, opponents of reform didn't even pretend to engage with the reality either of the existing health-care system or of the moderate, centrist plan Democrats were proposing.

Instead, the emotional core of opposition to reform was blatant fear-mongering, unconstrained either by the facts or by any sense of decency.

It wasn't just the death panel smear.

It was racial hate-mongering, like a piece in Investor's Business Daily declaring that health reform is "affirmative action on steroids, deciding everything from who becomes a doctor to who gets treatment on the basis of skin colour".

It was wild claims about abortion funding.

It was the insistence that there is something tyrannical about giving young working Americans the assurance that health care will be available when they need it.

And let's be clear: The campaign of fear hasn't been carried out by a radical fringe.

On the contrary, the Republican establishment has been involved and approving all the way.

The campaign of fear was effective: Health reform went from being highly popular to wide disapproval, although the numbers have been improving lately.

But the question was, would it actually be enough to block reform?

And the answer is no. The Democrats have done it.

The House has passed the Senate version of health reform, and an improved version will be achieved through reconciliation.

This is, of course, a political victory for President Obama and a triumph for Ms Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker.

But it is also a victory for America's soul. In the end, a vicious, unprincipled fear offensive failed to block reform. 

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