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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 and Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on

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Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.