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Red Cross Dawn

All the news today is about passage of the health care bill—any health care bill. For all the Democrats’ trumpet-blowing over how they’ve just accomplished something that others have tried and failed to do for over a hundred years, they haven’t. Not quite. Presidents from Teddy Roosevelt on have sought universal care; we’ve only got as far as mandating universal purchase of health insurance. And somewhere, down the road, probably universal care, too, though the four years to elapse before even insurance is mandatory is a long time for politics to reverse itself.

Still, I’m happy to see something pass. Not because it’s a terrific piece of legislation—it isn’t—but because a victory like this might just convince Dems, and especially progressive Dems, that they have power. And that that power should be used. All it takes is a willingness to take the initiative, rather than simply surrendering to the Pubs’ chosen narrative. They might pay a price in the 2010 elections, but I doubt it: my gut insists that they won’t lose any seats they wouldn’t have lost anyway, and will hang on to several they might have lost without passage. A lot will depend on the jobs outlook come November, a factor largely independent of heath care, and nothing will silence the big lies of the right wing but getting their teeth kicked in (literally or figuratively) often enough to counteract a generation of successful bullying under the banner of Reagan. But hey, that’s just my gut. That and recent polls showing approval spiking up ten, fifteen points the moment Dems started working toward something—anything!–instead of simply giving up at the first sign of resistance.

The news services are happy to see something pass, too. It’s good, saleable able news, spun as another play in the ongoing football game of our nation’s governance.

I can’t help but notice, however, that only now are the news media getting around to reporting what the bill actually contains. Until now, all the news was about the name-calling and spin-doctoring and vote-wrangling and who was up and who was down. The news ceaselessly quoted partisan rhetoric about the bill, much of it barefaced lies, but actual journalism on the state of health care and the proposed reforms was thin on the ground. Fact-checking, even of the most barefaced lies (like the “death squad” bloviation), was either too much work, or too expensive, or too unglamorous. Helping the voting public decide whether the bill was any good vanished beneath the relentless reporting of the game.

And that is a terrible failure of our news services, from NPR reporting on the Teabaggers’ anger rather than the jusification,(if any) for the anger all the way to Fox “news” explaining why we had better back the status quo before the commies destroyed America.

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