Anthony Asadullah Samad

*The President of the United States of America, Barack H. Obama, signed into law universal health care coverage for every American, for the first time ever in our nation’s history. It was a long time coming. Almost 100 years. The United States was the last industrialized nation to do so.

The construction of health care reform in America started at the root with the need for the world’s richest nation to do something very fundamental in fulfilling a basic right to provide treatment for the sick, the infirmed and the aging. However, at the core of the debate as to why America did not have universal coverage was … greed. The last two decades have been froth with the emergence of “insurers” who took over health care in the United States.

Health care insurers dominated the industry and dictated who received coverage, what kind of coverage they received, who was exempt from coverage (something called “pre-existing conditions”), who was dropped from coverage. At the end of the day, your doctor no longer told you if you were going to live or die, your HMO or PPO insurer did. After a year long debate, one that saw the President hand over the issue of reform to Congress-who let town hall meetings to into a summer circus, only to take it back when thought health care was dead-and use the legislative maneuvers that had long been used to empower the rich and privileged to empower the sick, uninsured, the poor and the struggling middle class. Our hats are off to President Obama for fulfilling a campaign most believed he would not be able to achieve.

The back story here is really the breakthrough of the Democrats in Congress to finally stand for something they claimed they stood for, but had never been able to deliver on. The Democratic Party has been recently viewed as a figment of their own imagination as the vanguards of the poor and disenfranchised.

Social justice and societal inclusion has taken a fast regression in the past 30 years as the social welfare agenda has been dismantled over that time. During the Reagan and Bush 1 years, when they were previously in the majority and even during the first two years of the Clinton years, Democrats had a difficult time coming together on substantive legislation. They were seen as the “good guys,” the do-gooders trying to give the government away. When the Republicans took over Congress in 1994, in the first year they flexed with the “Contract For America,” an anti-taxation, anti-affirmative action, anti-big government agenda that represented an ideological “middle class” protection movement bent on obstructing any legislation that sought to help those who’ve fallen through the cracks of society. Beyond “family values” and “personal responsibility” rhetoric (much of which many of them didn’t even practice), the Republicans showed little compassion and the Democrats could only whish they were in the majority again. Their opportunity came in 2006 and with a 2008 election mandate for “change,” the nation watched to see if Democrats, a party that had become known for shooting itself in both feet, would deliver on the mandate. Health care and jobs would be the test, once focus on the war(s) and the economy subsides.

Looking like a person riding a bike for the first time in a long time, the Democrats were a little wiggly at first. Watching them manage health reform town hall meetings didn’t offer us any real level of comfort that the Democrats could ride a bike again. They not only didn’t look like they knew where they were going on health care, they looked like they’d be knocked off the bike before they got there. The Republicans showed what they were about during entire process, as the debate degenerated to what we saw in 1960 instead what we would expect to see in 2010. If Republicans can’t get you with a majority, they turn obstructionists. From there they turn deviously obnoxious. Evidently, the Democrats learned something all these years of watching Republican politically maneuvering when they were in the majority. They pressed a partisan reconciliation vote to get health care reform over the top. Everybody was waiting for their knees to buckle as party defections threatened the passage. And we all knew the Democrats would never have a greater majority than they have now. If they didn’t get it done, this time, with a super-majority in Congress and change agent President-it would never get done. The Democrats stood firm. Watching the vote live, all you could say was, “Damn, the Democrats finally got it done.” Democrats showed they are truly a change party again.

The bill they passed was really health insurance reform, but with legislation now in place to cap greed and exclusion, health care reform is quickly on the way.

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com