Yes, You Did


Congratulations to the people of the United States of America for finally passing the beginnings of health care reform. You’ve taken a step in the right direction.

I think most people can agree that the bill is not perfect, and that it has been watered down from what was initially promised, but I take comfort in what Allyn Gibson said: none of the landmark pieces of legislation of the past century were passed as single bills. Social security, medicare, even civil rights, were all passed as an incremental series of legislation, all against heavy and loud opposition that prevented an outright victory in the first go.

Such is the way of democracy. The days when one victory over one vote could turn night into day are rare, indeed. The way forward is always a long slog, changing perceptions and changing minds, battling back the forces of ignorance, complacency or simple fear of the unknown. In a perfect world, this would not be so, but in some ways democratic reform would mean less, perhaps, if the way was too easy. It’s not. People went to war to defend the things they believe in. It never has been.

President Obama was elected with exceedingly high expectations, and I know that some of my American friends have been disillusioned that he hasn’t lived up to those expectations in his first year of office. I think, though, that the message Obama should have repeated, once he was elected, until he took office, and beyond, was that the way forward in American democracy was not through him, and it never was. The way forward could only be walked by the people behind him, by the 69.4 million Americans who voted him into office. If these people wanted change, they could not stop with the election, they had to keep on working to bring about change, by talking to their friends and neighbours, writing to their congressmen and senators, by engaging opponents and changing minds. Obama should have presented himself not just as a leader, but as a symbol to these individuals — a symbol which said: hey, you got so far as to elect me; now go out there and see what else you can do.

On the other hand, I must admit to being frustrated by the lies and innuendo I’ve heard thrown up by the filibustering Republicans who seem interested only in stymieing the work of this government and the people who voted it in. Leaving aside the insults I’ve heard thrown at my own country’s fine and decent (and better than American) health care system, these individuals have the gall to call the simple process of voting in health care reform “undemocratic”. How, exactly?

You have here a democratically elected president who campaigned on this issue. You have Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, whose congressmen and senators ran on platforms talking about health care reform. You had one of the greater repudiations of the Republican party in both the 2008 and 2006 elections. You have a president, congressmen and senators doing nothing more than fulfill the mandates that they were elected to. How is that undemocratic?

And you also have polls out there which confirm that most Americans still support health care reform, and those who support the status quo are, like the Republicans, in a minority. How is that undemocratic?

I realize that the 2010 senate and house elections are serious horse races, and that with the economy being as it is, the voters are volatile. However, if by chance the 2010 elections pass and the Democrats still control a majority of seats in either the house or the senate or both, what do these individuals lambasting today’s senators or congressmen for disobeying “the will of the people” do now? Whose “people” are they speaking about? What do the protesting teabaggers say when they’re forced to come out of their echo chambers and realize that tens of millions of Americans who, in most other ways are not much different from them, still disagree with them fundamentally on the role of government in their lives.

At some point, the 60 million Americans who voted for John McCain have to realize that they share a country with the nearly 70 million Americans who voted for Barrack Obama, and that under this democracy, you have to work together to meet the future and that, sometimes, you won’t get everything that you want. Many of the people who voted for Barrack Obama are well aware of this. How do you think they coped during those eight years when George W. Bush was in power.

Will it happen? Will people who go overboard in their criticism of Obama realize that he wouldn’t be where he is without the consent of other Americans who are no different from them? What will they do then? What will they do?

Further Reading

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