The moment Ted Kennedy joins his brothers in Arlington National Cemetery, his greatest vital and political project since he took office in the Senate – ambitious health care reform – will become an orphan. Kennedy, the chairman on the Health committee in Congress, had been tirelessly pushing for extended health coverage. The program would provide coverage for more than 40 million U.S. citizens who currently lack health care.
The issue is a titanic battle. It represents Hillary Clinton’s first great failure. Obama has tried a second round. In his presidential campaign, health care seemed to be self-evident and represented a fundamental claim to its democratic followers; today it is the object of the most profound contradictions and divisions. At the same time, the industry’s agents are banding together, stronger and stronger against reform. The same is happening with the Republican opposition, in some cases due to pure anti-liberal conviction, and in other cases because of simply being an anti-Obama force.
Right now, the latest statements affirm that Washington seems resigned to not imposing a public option for health care, and that the reform will limit closer regulation of the activity and coverage of private health care providers. The services provided would be not-for-profit cooperatives, which won’t be private or governmental. The system will be like a small Quixote confronting big windmills, especially now with Ted Kennedy’s death and the serious health problems of the other senator. The Democrats are vulnerable, possibly losing the majority of votes they need to direct solely minimal reforms.
This is not what Obama wanted. The president’s plans have severely deteriorated in Ted Kennedy’s last couple of months, where his illness represented an impediment to spreading his qualities as a public health care champion. The personal qualities that were affected by the illness were his incomparable charisma and his ability to negotiate in the Senate. One of his last deeds was to drag himself in to still vote for a reduction for the poor in Medicaid.
Was he able to achieve something? Or were the Republicans extremely united against him? This is a secret that Ted Kennedy took to the grave…that could be the last service to his cause. It is true that with Kennedy’s death, Obama has lost an ally. However, he won a powerful symbol. If the shock of Kennedy’s death gains followers for reform, the “Old Liberal Lion” will achieve victory in his grand battle – what he has called “the cause of my life” – after his death.
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