The anger we are feeling over the healthcare reform process is, today, palpable. I am only 24 years old but I can tell you that this month I am cynical about politics for the first time in my life. The thought that the institutional barriers to genuine healthcare reform in America - reform that guarantees all citizens access at affordable rates and saves lives - are so powerful that they withstand the will of more than 60 percent of Americans and a powerful Democratic presence in every branch of the federal government, is sickening.
Now the idea that we will likely be forced to buy insurance from companies that live to screw us is the last straw. I refuse to accept that another generation will die before we see genuine and substantial healthcare reform in America.
This is the kind of moment when we need to get off of our computers and demonstrate our anger in a public way. We know there are more of us than there are teabaggers, and we can make a bigger statement than they have made in light of all the glory and attention the fringe Right got this year. This is the time when we need to be setting up permanent picket lines around insurance offices, hospitals and state capitol buildings.
This is the time when we need to be posting lists of people who died when their coverage was denied on the insurance companies' front doors to shame them.
I'm actually 50-50 on whether the current bill should be dropped at this point. The reason I say this is that I think the positives and negatives of the bill, in isolation, add to about zero - but with its passage, we would at least have a foundation for change upon which only a public option is needed to create something substantial. My inclination is to pass what we have now and immediately write an additional bill containing a public option and move it under reconciliation.
The fear is that the current bill will take the urgency out of further healthcare reform, and that nothing else will appear in years. But at this point, it looks as though the bill will pass. That's why we must now make sure that the effort doesn't stop there and that we keep the process moving.
Say that the current unpopular bill passes, and a second, more popular bill for a public option is under Republican filibuster in the months preceding the 2010 elections; what better way to set up Democrats for success in November than to have them oppose a Republican filibuster blocking something that nearly two-thirds of Americans support?
The idea that I, and you and everyone else, will be forced to buy private insurance through an individual mandate might be just the provocation we need for the kind of popular movement that can cram through a public option under reconciliation. Young people are notoriously apathetic when it comes to politics, but when they realize what will happen to them when they graduate from college or age out of their parents' plans - they'll be forced to purchase insurance from companies that will belligerently refuse claims when they get sick - they will move.
We know how the American media work; they aren't biased towards one party or another, they're biased towards whatever seems to be the overarching narrative, or to whatever seems especially fresh. They underreported the consistent and strong public support for the public option because it wasn't "new" and dramatic, it was permanent and constant. They over-reported the birthers and the teabaggers because they were something we've never seen before, albeit an insignificant blip when it comes to the actual numbers of people in America. They were incessantly fixated on the numbers of people attending Barack Obama's rallies before the election.
We need to come up with something novel, now, in favor of substantial reform, for a "the tide has turned again" narrative to take hold. It's time for change.
I don't know if this is too pie-in-the-sky to hope for, but after I worked my ass off in 2008 canvassing for Barack Obama, and then we won in November by a landslide, I believed that anything was possible. Now I'm not so sure about that, but I'm willing to keep trying, and I will definitely promise this: if you tell me there's a protest rally outside the Aetna health insurance building in Denver this weekend, I will be there.