Saturday, February 6, 2010

Universal health care, despite all the strong economic reasons for it, it is ideological

By Dave Belden TDB

Interesting that that’s the New York Times headline about yesterday’s State of the Union speech. The author contrasts Obama’s “staying the course” with Clinton’s move to the right in 1996. The assumption here at Tikkun has been that Obama would continue to follow Clinton to the right.

But when you read the whole piece it turns out that they are saying that staying the course for Obama means being unemotional, cool, an “anti-ideologue.”
“As temperatures cool,” he [Obama] said, making an assumption that they would cool, “I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed.” He repeated his challenge that if anyone else in the political spectrum had a better way to bring down premiums and cover the uninsured, “let me know.” This was not a Clintonian effort to triangulate. It was rooted in Mr. Obama’s certainty that over time, pragmatism would overcome politics.

But the fact is that Obama’s Republican opposition is being highly ideological and has thoroughly resisted all his attempts to pragmatically engage their support. And in the process of trying to get their support by, yes, moving to the right, he has lost his own ideological supporters. In the context of America today it is not just pragmatic to want universal health care, despite all the strong economic reasons for it: it is ideological. That is, it depends on buying into concepts such as healthcare as a human right and/or the need to care for everyone and/or the need to create a sense among everybody that they are included, that this is their society too. that’s ideological and to try and govern as if it isn’t is just not going to work.

A reaction from a Network of Spiritual Progressives member on a listserve:

I fell asleep late last night after a speech that, at least, kept the wick from flickering out…but still wondering what to do to start the fire that would provide the “steady light, to help a whole society keep seeing the truth about itself.”

What did you make of the speech? I am interested to hear your reactions.