*There was a time in American history when the mention of socialism would instantly de-legitimize a cause or issue.
From the end of World War II through the dissolution of the Soviet Union the Cold War was the most powerful force in the American consciousness, so much so that to be even remotely connected to a communist approach meant certain failure.
The passage of healthcare reform last week marks the death of that Cold War mentality.
Throughout the campaign season of 2008 and since his presidency began, conservative pundits have decried Obama’s push for more universal healthcare coverage among Americans as being socialist.
His proposal to reform healthcare has been pointed to as evidence of Obama’s role in “bringing down” this country. However, enough legislators in Congress (admittedly all Democrats) agreed with the larger goal of reform as well as the details in this recent bill.
By passing this law these men and women in Congress reflected their constituency’s belief that socialism is not something that should be dismissed out of hand. In addition they acted on their conviction that socialism can benefit society. Without the Cold War and the Soviet Union’s place as our ultimate communist nemesis, socialism as a philosophy will have a chance to operate in society and guide policy makers.
Without the Cold War and the Soviet Union there is an opportunity for the United States as a country and Americans as individuals to more insightful, less aggrandizing, and really examine what can help this country. Socialism as an operating principle is all about what will benefit the most people while maintaining individual freedoms and profit motive. Contrary to Cold War perspective, it is not inherently evil to institute policies that will help others. This is particularly true when a country claims, as the United States does now and did then, to be the leading nation in the world.
The passage of healthcare reform is significant for a number of reasons. Because it shows that Obama can get an initiative through Congress. Because it gives him a return on all the political capital he invested in it. Because it starts the process of helping Americans receive more affordable health coverage. But not least of all because it indicates that the populace has moved on from it Cold War way of thinking.
Trevor Brookins is a free lance writer in Rockland County, New York. He is currently working on a book about American culture during the Cold War and he maintains a blog called This Seems Familiar. You can reach him at [email protected].