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Healthcare Reform, the GOP, and Barack Obama

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This is a defining moment of your presidency. It's a make or break situation of whether you will go down in history as a flash-in-the-pan one-time president or one of America's greatest commanders-in-chief. Your very legacy is at stake here in the earliest days of your presidency. Many presidents have tried to tackle healthcare reform and have failed. Remember Bill Clinton in 1993. Now it's your turn to have a go and already you have had a God-awful August of hypocritical talking heads, attacks from the Republican Right wing, political mutiny in your own party, weak-kneed Democrats fudging their bets and outright sloppy politics from your top health experts.

That has got to stop. Mr. President, you have to stop trying to be uncle to everyone and to please everybody. You MUST lead from the front. It is a simple as that. Your top aides have done a very bad job of selling your healthcare reform plan. And you have either gotten very bad advice or did not listen to wisdom. Not because the world loves you and Michelle that automatically translates into a smoochy embrace from Washington and in particular the Senate and House of Representatives.

You should have learned from the Professor Gates incident that many white Americans still bristle at the thought of a Black man calling white cops "stupid" -- even if they do act that way each and every day. Even if you are the President of the United States white men (and some white women) still want a an African male to "stay in his place." Put it down to their racist DNA genes and I tell you that it's going to take generations of DNA purging and washing to get them to behave and think otherwise. So you are not going to be loved by all or please everyone no matter how non-threatening and affable you are in the scheme of things.

You recently met over beer with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Sgt. James Crowley, hoping to diffuse tense debates over existing and real racial profiling and racial bias triggered by the arrest of the Black Harvard University scholar by the Cambridge, Mass., police department officer. Though that racially charged conversation may now be over, (we can hope, can't we?) vicious attacks - over 30 a day threatening you life -- still persist. So do not kid yourself into thinking that all is nice and comfy and that your history-making achievement has created a revolution in color-blindness in the USA and that some white people now see Black people as equal.

But let me get back to the healthcare reform debate. You must know by now that the Republican Party and its enablers are rooting for you to fail. You are a victim, Sir, of your own success. You almost single-handedly destroyed the GOP by winning an election against a bunch of jaded, old white males who still view the White House as their entitlement program. You have made the GOP irrelevant and it's been hurt by a loss of control. That you broke this hallowed glass ceiling did not go over well with them. Now they are trying to get back at you.

The rabble-rousing and vitriol are standard Republican Play Book techniques to demonize real or perceived enemies. Lies, innuendos, smear-tactics and other tactics are unashamedly used to coerce and subvert genuine national debate and to whip up ignorant frenzies. You have to push back, Sir. You have to deal with this by rallying the party and galvanizing your base of support to take on the GOP and defeat it at its scurrilous game. I know that you can do this. I have faith in you.

So the issue is not about healthcare reform -- it is first and foremost about you. Secondly, it is about corrupting and confusing the debate so that people get angry and lose sight of the real issue(s) that confront a 20th century healthcare system that badly needs to embrace 21st century methods. The thing is, Mr. President, the GOP and its strategists understand the battered and controlled American public mind.

The silly shouting matches at Town Hall meetings are the kind of intolerance of each other and our views that the 8 years of the Bush Administration nurtured and defined. National closed-mindedness is now a part of the American mental make-up that makes any debate on an issue and a dissenting view than what is held by the majority as a near criminal act and "unpatriotic" to boot. Under George Bush any change of position -- in both domestic and foreign policy -- was seen as weak, know-towing, and betraying America and its values, whatever those are. Listening or respecting the points of view of others was seen as wussy.
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So now the Republican chorus is trying -- and succeeding so far -- in defining the national debate on healthcare reform in the same way. Aided and abetted by the racist news media your political adversaries are not thinking about today but about 2010 when they hope to make you a "one-termer." That is why this healthcare reform proposal must pass. That is why this is a defining moment in your presidency and your must step up to the plate and bat.

The way ahead will be hard and filled with danger. But let me be blunt: without the public option you do not have healthcare reform. Without the public option Americans will be left to purchase insurance from the big mega-companies, like AIG, that will continue to jack up premiums because there is no competition. Monopoly in the market means that whoever controls sections of it can damn well do as they please.

And purchasing insurance from insurance co-ops as suggested by some in the Democratic Party is simply not an option. If anything its worse than not having a public option. Insurance coops will never be able to offer the kind of competition in the insurance marketplace that will drive done costs so that consumers can afford to buy. They will soon be driven out of business and all us poor sods will be owned -- lock, stock and barrel -- by the same insurance companies that today make billions and billions from denying Americans with pre-existing conditions access to quality, affordable healthcare.

Mr. President, the end result of backing off, caving in on the public option in your healthcare reform proposal is to oversee the most massive transfer of wealth from poor and working class Americans to a few monopoly mega-insurance companies. Sir, you still have, in George Bush words, a lot of political capital to spend. Don't squander it. Now is the time for you to lead and to prove your critics wrong. I know that you can do it -- we're rooting for you.

You have to stitch and glue the Democratic Party together again because you allowed the Congress to go its own way by being too hands off. You have caused mutiny in the ranks and you need to deal with this. About 60 democrats in the House are saying that you will not get healthcare reform passed by excluding the public option called the Public Option Health Insurance plan. Know what? The vast majority of Americans agree with them.
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Finally, Mr. President, you are a very savvy politician and you know that the opinions of ordinary people and voters matter. In places like Brooklyn -- where over 96% of the Black population voted for you -- there is a clamor, not yet an angry chorus, for you to lead this country and to push a healthcare reform plan that includes a Public Option Health Insurance option. They are not going to be too pleased or satisfied by some wishy-washy, watered down version of a plan that gives the rapacious insurance companies more money, more power and a strangle hold on their lives.

The ball is now in your court.

 

MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)
 

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