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Passed Health Reform Really Is "What Change Looks Like"

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President Obama at the Organizing for America Health Reform Forum 8/19/09

Flickr Photo by Barack Obama

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America finally made it. On Sunday night, a health care reconciliation bill with student loan reforms attached passed in the House and Senate with a 219-212 vote and President Obama came out to make a statement and declare "government still works for the people."

Obama added, "We proved that we are still a people capable of doing big things." He stated proudly, "This is what change looks like."

The president was correct when he said that. Unfortunately, this is indeed what change looks like.

The beginning, middle, and end of this process leaves an indelible mark in the records and provides an example of what any meaningful reforms or proposed radical changes dealing with issues will face in the future.

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The finish shows us all that in the closing moments of a process, which could ultimately be derailed, those with the most idealism and passion for humanity will be persuaded, cajoled, pressured, and browbeaten until they fall into line and vote for a corporate interpretation of reform Americans are told to believe is for the people.

It shows us that Democratic senators and representatives with amendments and additional policy suggestions who come ready to address populist fears of a corporate giveaway will be told to sit down, shut up and get out of the way so that incremental reform can get through, so that fears based on religious doctrine (e.g. abortion) can be attended to instead.

The process demonstrates that minority groups will be forced to make a sacrifice. When politicians are incapable of framing the debate in a way that upholds humanity, women, working class people, immigrants, the poor, etc will suffer and see the expansive nature of the reform or proposed policy change greatly reduced.

In America's two party system, Americans now know the minority party or the party directly opposed to the president will do everything it can to stop the reform from passing, not because reform isn't needed but because reform means the party that holds power will increase their power in the coming elections.

Opposition will dominate the conversation and debate. A media echo chamber will spread opposition talking points and pundits will reinforce this opposition through months of cable news programming.

Angry populist groups will rise up in the beginning of the process. Jostling for attention, they will find some way to make a mark and rise up as a key player in the political process.

The groups could potentially look at a wide array of beverages and research history for beverages that might have some link to the history of patriotism and revolution in America. The group might even take an urban dictionary reference like "teabagging" and appropriate the term as something to describe their attempt to kill the reform.

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The party pushing for reform will note the fears of the opposition and cater to those fears even if they do not publicly believe the fears to be valid. The legislation will gel and be molded into a shape that the party pushing for reform hopes will decrease the amount of noise being created against the change. But, this will not win any support from the opposition.

Corporate media will promote opposition to maintain so-called objectivity, but only certain opposition. Nuanced opposition--the groups that promote going further than the current reform or taking a fundamentally different approach--will be written off.

Such nuanced opposition will look at past civil rights movements and stage sit-ins or other forms of nonviolent direct action to gain some press and attention for their cause. They will hold rallies just like those who oppose the reform do, but these actions will not receive much attention from the media. Suggesting one is in favor of the change but opposed to the framework for the debate and the bill being voted on will earn virtually no attention.

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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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