The F Word: Public Option Activists Deserve a Pat on the Back
Now some good news. The public option’s alive and kicking — it may not be what you dreamed of — but it’s worth a cheer that it’s not plain dead.
Majority Leader Harry Reid announced yesterday that he would bring a bill to the Senate floor with a public option in it. Though he said that he would include a provision that would allow states to opt out of the public plan, when it comes to progressive victories, this one can fairly count.
Let’s remember, public support for a public option survived months of frothing protest at town-hall meetings and even Obama’s drive for compromise; it survived a trigger proposal that would’ve kept the health care status quo largely intact and it beat back a bad case of Democratic bipartisanitis.
It wasn’t Congressional leadership or the president that kept the idea of a non-profit public option alive. It was tireless work by progressives who organized, made phone calls, spent money and protested and even blogged about it.. When so-called leaders waffled and a few senators from small states, pockets stuffed with insurance company cash, threatened to hijack the process, activists held on and pressured their representatives to do likewise.
From the public option singers to CIGNA sit-ins, ActBlue and FireDogLake raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, people engaged and fought for health care reform. Big coalitions like HCAN and groups like Physicians for a National Health Plan fought misinformation and saw support numbers rise in the face of cynical mass media and Republicans declaring victory.
The public option is itself a compromise from single-payer, and the opt-out provision is a compromise from there that could still leave many people, often poor, rural, and people of color, uninsured. The fight’s not over—Reid will need 60 votes just to hang on to the opt-out, and then the Senate bill will have to be combined with a House bill.
But heck, progressives in America take their victories where they find them, and this one — against billionaire lobbyists and a wall to wall pundit stream counts. Pat yourselves on the back.
The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.