Dennis Kucinich: The Public Option is Dead, Long Live the Public Option
September 25th, 2009
As I eluded to in this post on Tuesday, I participated in a conference call between the Canadian membership of Democrats Abroad and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich on the topic of health care reform. The reason for my participation is simple. I am an American citizen working for an American corporation but living in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
When I was offered the opportunity to relocate from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Vancouver, British Columbia I did as any other person would do, I consulted my wife and together we listed out all of the pro’s, con’s, opportunities and risks surrounding this potential move. Uprooting a young family is not something that should be taken lightly no matter how lucrative the opportunity may seem. In the end, one of the items that helped tip the scales in favor of relocation was Canada’s single payer health care system.
Now, I can already hear the angry mobs amassing at the comment section ready to shout their uninformed drivel about how awful the Canadian health care system is, how people are dying in the street waiting for services, and how such a horrific socialist system would never work in the U.S. To that let me just say one thing. Bullshit.
It has been nearly two years since I took my family to Canada and so far our experience with the health care system is quite the opposite. But that is not why I am writing today so rather than spend too much time here talking about it I promise another post (or series) on the topic at a later date.
Back to the topic at hand. So Tuesday I participated in this con call with Rep. Kucinich fully expecting to be on the receiving end of another one of those political action speeches where the politician shows up and rally’s the troops to whatever end he/she has in mind. Instead, I was greeted by an open line conference call where all participants introduced themselves and each had an opportunity to ask a question of the Representative. Refreshing to say the least.
My question was simple, after having watched both House Oversight Committee hearings on health care reform lead by the congressman I asked him this:
“During the hearings you stated that your bill (HR676) was likely DOA. Can you explain why? What is preventing our representatives from actually acting in the interest of their constituency.”
His answer was not at all what I expected. He lead by defending his effort. “First let me point out that hr676 has 70 co-sponsors in the house of representatives” which I agree nothing to sneeze at. But then came the message that Kucinich had decided he wanted to carry to this group of American expats,
“In 2000 I tried to bring a bill and was asked by the head of the Gore campaign not to bring it because of the funding they were receiving [from the health care industry].
In 2008 I was excluded from debates that were sponsored by health insurance companies. It is a huge business and they are determined not to let go of it. They use their influence to buy their way through. Even a weak public option is not going to get through this congress.”
And he did not end with that. In answer after answer to each question posed by the group he hammered home two distinct messages. 1) In this congress the public option is dead and 2) a public option will eventually prevail but it will be a decade long struggle.
When questioned about whether the blue-dog Democrats were in effect siding with the Republicans and/or the health care industry Kucinich said:
“It’s my opinion that the blue dogs are doing exactly what the White House wants them to do. The public option was a trial balloon. I can not stress how cynical and brutal the politics are. This is not about the public option. Anyone looking for the public option needs to look someplace else. It is not going to happen and anybody who says it is is in fantasy land.”
When asked about what can be done for American health care reform Kucinich took the position of a man with a deeper understanding of the true struggle:
“We have to take a long term perspective on this. 8-10 years down the road. This is a civil rights movement we have here. I think we are going to have single payer in the states one day. Unfortunately there are going to be many people who get sick, go broke and die before we get there.”
What Kucinich was doing was resetting expectations and delivering a hard message to the majority of Americans that support a public option today.
He was saying do not expect a public option any time soon. Whatever might get through this congress masquerading as a public option will not be worth much. And if a public option is ever to pass on a national level it will likely come only after a groundswell of grassroots effort. Reset your clocks for a long term fight. Work with local organizations such as the one being lead by Chuck Pennacchio in Pennsylvania with HealthCare4AllPA.