The Real Lesson From Health Care Reform

William Smith

We had a moment at the end of the summer where the Administration began to use moral language to muster support for its efforts, but that has passed. However, if we want healthcare for all, the moral argument needs to be front and center.

In my decade-plus of working in Washington on policy matters, I’ve
followed more bills than I care to remember. But this time around, the
healthcare reform debate strikes me as different. Maybe it is what it
says about what we as a people value…or don’t. With the Senate
Finance Committee having finally voted out a bill that seems the source
of consternation for many, a fundamental lesson is emerging from the
entire spectacle that warrants our attention.

The lesson is not that this has been a messy process that needs
fixing. Indeed, it is supposed to be a long and messy process. Profound
change in representative democracies is a test of fortitude and always
comes by way of gradualism. The Founders intended it to be so and for
better or worse – my own sense is for the better – the structures and
institutions that were set into place more than two centuries ago and
have matured since, help ensure that, to use Madison’s phrasing, we are
not "decreeing to the same citizens, the hemlock on one day, and
statues on the next."

No, the big lesson is that this same system stymies our ability to
advance additional notions of rights that lie outside of our founding
documents. No truer an example can be found than that of healthcare.
What has become abundantly clear is that Americans just still do not
buy into the notion that healthcare is a right. Plain and simple. When
citizens and elected officials alike vocally oppose a so-called public
option, the underlying premise is that this remains an affair for the
marketplace, not the realm of politics.

The problem, of course, is that we already have a public option. It
is when people show up at the emergency room and receive care
regardless of their ability to pay. At some level, this example
underscores the moral dimension of this debate to the core. It would be
immoral to deny someone care who shows up at an emergency room with
serious health issues and our society recognizes and compels that care
in many, many instances. This is a moral judgment in practice, but
whose articulation in our nation’s debate seems non-existent. Yet, it
is entirely relevant because after all, moral judgments and frameworks
are the natural pathway to securing rights.

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We had a moment at the end of the summer where the Administration
began to use moral language to muster support for its efforts. It
disappeared into the ether without notice and again, the discussion
shifted to money. However, if we are to actually win and secure
healthcare for all, it is precisely the moral argument that needs to be
front and center.

Let me give you an example. How in the world was it decided that the
guarantee of coverage for all would be the "public option." What a
silly and technical term to describe what is, in its essence, a moral
vision for how our society ought to approach healthcare. It put the
debate on the typical grounds of the scope of federal powers in our
limited scheme of government and to that extent, provided the embers
for yet another firestorm between small government conservatives and
liberals who see a more expansive role for government. Did we learn
nothing from this same framing of the debate during the Clinton years?

We will never know if a deliberate and consistent moral framing may
have won the day, but imagine if the guarantee of coverage was called
"the moral society option" or some such term that communicated an
entirely different message. Imagine the hypermoralistic social
conservatives having to engage that discussion. That is the real nexis
of the debate but we lost it entirely.

This is the lesson of healthcare reform in 2009; we have to
communicate a morally persuasive argument that sways the public and our
representatives and we have yet to do so. Lest one jump to the
conclusion that the simple solution would be a campaign trumpeting
"healthcare as a human rights" mantra, that too is wrongheaded.

I have often counseled my liberal friends to read the conservative
scholar Mary Ann Glendon’s brilliant work, Rights Talk. Glendon’s great
insight is that we have become so sloppy in tossing about rights-based
language that it increasingly rings hollow and fails to carry with it
the inherently moral message that is at the roots of the conception of
rights itself. More sloppy "rights talk" merely serves to further
impoverish our rights-based discourse and further alienates the need
for all Americans to have a heartfelt belief that it is a special type
of discussion. In other words, the magic is gone from the word and we,
ourselves, are in many ways to blame.

So, I think she has the diagnosis nailed down – uncomfortable as it
may be for many of us. But what is the way forward? Here is where I
return to the lament about the lack of consistent and penetrating moral
framework to our domestic discussion about healthcare. Moral language
is the bridge back to securing rights and reviving the special sense in
the American consciousness that the term ought to inspire. They are not
mutually exchangeable terms or frames of reference. Further, morals
lead to rights, not the reverse. Positing rights language without first
successfully providing the moral argument perhaps serves short term
advocacy goals, but in the end, creates a hollow shell that is
ultimately difficult to defend. And here is where we find ourselves.

In the present, it has become clear that whatever results from these
many months of debate on healthcare will be wholly insufficient to
attain universal access for all. The lesson we take forward must be
that concerted efforts must be made to frame securing universal
healthcare coverage as moral issue for a moral society. Perhaps then,
the next law will have a better chance of securing and codifying the
"right" to healthcare for our posterity.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Politics

Former Klan Leader on Senate Run: My Views Are Now the ‘GOP Mainstream’

Teddy Wilson

David Duke has been a fervent support of the Trump campaign, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

David Duke, convicted felon, white supremacist, and former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, announced Friday that he will run for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, Roll Call reported.

Duke said that after a “great outpouring of overwhelming support,” he will campaign for the open Senate seat vacated by former Republican Sen. David Vitter, who lost a bid for Louisiana governor in a runoff election.

Duke’s announcement comes the day after Donald Trump accepted the GOP nomination in the midst of growing tensions over race relations across the country. Trump has been criticized during the campaign for his rhetoric, which, his critics say, mainstreams white nationalism and provokes anxiety and fear among students of color.

His statements about crime and immigration, particularly about immigrants from Mexico and predominantly Muslim countries, have been interpreted by outlets such as the New York Times as speaking to some white supporters’ “deeper and more elaborate bigotry.”

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Duke said in his campaign announcement that he was the first candidate to promote the policy of “America first,” echoing a line from Trump’s nomination acceptance speech on Thursday night.

“The most important difference between our plan and that of our opponents, is that our plan will put America First,” Trump said Thursday night. “As long as we are led by politicians who will not put America First, then we can be assured that other nations will not treat America with respect.”

Duke said his platform has become “the GOP mainstream” and claimed credit for propelling Republicans to control of Congress in 2010. He said he is “overjoyed to see Donald Trump … embrace most of the issues I’ve championed for years.”

Trump in February declined to disavow the support of a white supremacist group and Duke, saying he knew “nothing about David Duke” and knew “nothing about white supremacists.” He later clarified that he rejected their support, and blamed his initial failure to disavow Duke on a “bad earpiece.”

Trump’s candidacy has also brought to light brought many incidents of anti-Semitism, much of which has been directed at journalists and commentators covering the presidential campaign.

Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro wrote in the National Review that Trump’s nomination has “drawn anti-Semites from the woodwork,” and that the Republican nominee has been willing to “channel the support of anti-Semites to his own ends.”

Duke took to Twitter after Trump’s acceptance speech Thursday to express his support for the Republican nominee’s vision for America.

“Great Trump Speech, America First! Stop Wars! Defeat the Corrupt elites! Protect our Borders!, Fair Trade! Couldn’t have said it better!” Duke tweeted.

Duke has been a fervent Trump supporter, and has posted dozens of messages in support of Trump on Twitter. Duke has often used the hashtag #TrumpWasRight.

Duke was elected to the Louisiana house in 1989, serving one term. Duke was the Republican nominee for governor in 1991, and was defeated by Democrat Edwin Edwards.

Duke, who plead guilty in 2002 to mail fraud and tax fraud, has served a year in federal prison.