Wednesday, September 16, 2009

PROMISES... FORGOTTEN

A couple of weeks before the Presidential election of 1964 - on October 21, 1964 - I heard the Accidental President, Lyndon B. Johnson, say this:

“We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”

I voted for Johnson. He won. He did exactly the opposite of what he said he would do. It would be ten more years, 57,000 dead Americans and a number best estimated at 4 million dead Vietnamese before the damage of that unfulfilled promise was halted.

Four years later, in 1968, I refused to vote for the nominee of the Democratic Party for President of the United States. He had been Johnson’s Vice President. How could I believe anything he said?

Forty years later I voted for Barack Obama for President largely because of his position on healthcare reform legislation. In 2003, while campaigning for John Kerry in New Hampshire, then Senator Barack Obama said this:

“I happen to be a proponent of a single payer universal health care program.” That’s what he said. I was glad to hear it because that is what I want too. He was also savvy enough to understand what was required in order to get a single payer universal health care program. In the same speech, he also said this:

“We may not get there immediately.”

Now, why did he say that? What’s the explanation? What did we need to accomplish first? Here’s the rest of that statement:

“Because first we have to take back the White House, we have to take back the Senate, and we have to take back the House.”

You got that? Obama understood. Take back the Presidency and the Congress and then what? Then we can have a single payer universal health care program.

Those were the words of Barack Obama. He repeated that pledge in his campaign for the Presidency in 2008. He promised Change We Can Believe In. I supported him and voted for him. He won. Democrats also won the House with a wide majority. They also won a numerical super-majority in the Senate.

So, we’re getting a single payer universal health care program, right?

No. All we are getting now is the Second Coming of LBJ. We never even got a shot at a single payer universal health care program and the so-called “public option” has now been scuttled too. The Change We Can Believe In has turned into either No Change At All or worse - a bill designed to further enrich the healthcare insurance industry, the pharmaceutical manufacturers, doctors, hospitals, private laboratories and all the other associated special interests that comprise the health care segment of our economy.

If the point of partisan politics is to win public office – as Obama pointed out so well himself – what then is the point of winning if you never get what was promised?

I understand you may not be able to get 100% of everything immediately. For me, 100% means a single payer universal health care system, or Medicare-for-all. I am ready to achieve that in steps. But if this Obama administration fails to pass a health care bill with at least a viable public option for health insurance, I will not vote for a Democrat for the House or Senate in 2010 and I will not vote to reelect Barack Obama in 2012. Why should I? What difference does it make?

Looking back, I’m not so sure Hubert Humphrey would have been any different than Richard Nixon and it sure looks like this country may end up no better off with Obama/Biden than had John McCain and Sarah Whatshername won.

2 comments:

louisproyect said...

Amen.

ralph said...

I voted for Dick Gregory in 1968 & lived to regret it, bitterly. I've no doubt that Humphrey would have been better than Nixon, certainly on Supreme Court appointments. As for Obama, standing firm on a maximalist approach to health care reform won't get it done, I don't think, what with steadfast Republicans and heel-dragging blue dogs throwing a spanner in the works. The best I think we can hope for is a bill that establishes enough basic principles of universal health care that they can be fleshed out over time. Alas.