Sunday, August 23, 2009

Healthcare protests producing remarkable political theater

The recent protests relating to healthcare reform have been dramatic and breathtaking.

As elected officials have attempted to explain President Obama's healthcare reform package during the August recess, they have been hit right between the eyes with opposition.

As somebody who enjoys watching democracy in action, these last few weeks have been exciting. I have complained many times on this blog about the apathy of the American public when it comes to politics.

Well, I am happily eating crow. 'Apathetic' is about the last word that I would use to describe the events we have seen.

People have become motivated on both sides of the issue, and this passion guarantees that the controversy will remain in the forefront in coming weeks.

However, it has been distressing to read statements and reports from politicians that have been critical of what we have seen. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi even said that some of the protesters against the proposal are un-American.

Really? I thought the First Amendment guaranteed the right to freely speak even if it meant shaking a few politicians out of their comfort zones.

When the passion of some of the protests began receiving coverage in the mainstream media, supporters of the president's reform efforts began stating that these protests were being orchestrated by those with right-wing interests.

If Democrats were sincerely surprised by this, then they were laughably naïve. However, it is more likely that they used this rhetoric to brush off the protesters as lunatics that did not reflect the attitudes of mainstream America.

Well, their efforts have failed. Town hall meetings have been packed all over the country, and I think all of us can agree that this tidal waive of protest is not simply the work of right-wing politicians.

At this point, Democrats have to be kicking themselves. If they had gotten this reform package passed before the August recess, then they could have spared themselves all these headaches. True, they would have likely faced protests, but probably not on the level we are currently seeing.

Now, when they return to Washington, the echoes of protests by millions of Americans will be fresh in their memories. It will be interesting to see what they do.

When Obama ran for the presidency, he ran on a platform of change that included reforming the healthcare industry. Regardless of whether a person supports what he is doing now, he is trying to do that.

When it comes to creating genuine change, a leader sometimes has to go forward with what he thinks is right even when the majority opposes him.

Will the president and the rest of the Democrats do that? In some ways, the efforts of the protesters are moot. Democrats have majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. If they feel this version of healthcare reform is so important, they can pass it without much effort.

If they do this, they will be vilified by many, but they will have the satisfaction of doing what they think is correct.

Or, will they succumb to the temptation to save their own back sides? Federal mid-term elections are next year and a lot of the people voting on this will be running for re-election.

Will they become more concerned about getting re-elected than supporting the reform package? Politicians are notorious for putting self-preservation ahead of almost everything else.

The most important aspect of all this is that the American people have made their voices heard.

If people still doubt they can create change, all they have to do is open their eyes.

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