Merry Christmas USA

Early this morning, the Senate voted to pass healthcare reform by a 60-39 vote. With Jim Bunning (R-KY) not in attendance, 58 Democrats and 2 Independents voted aye, and every Senate Republican voted no. There’s some pretty serious implications of the dynamics at work here moving forward, and obviously more work to be done on the healthcare front, but it’s worth stopping for a moment to appreciate the historic moment.

American progressives have been working for a national healthcare plan since John Dingell Sr. introduced a national health insurance bill to Congress in 1933. He and his son have introduced a similar bill to every Congress since. It has been a 76 year uphill battle, with very few victories along the way. It’s worth keeping that futility in mind as we fight over whether or not the current bill is expansive enough to be worth passing. For whatever the bill’s flaws, for the first time ever, both the House and the Senate have passed universal healthcare bills declaring that the United States government believes equitable access to quality healthcare coverage should be universal. That’s not nothing, it’s arguably the hardest hurdle to clear.

A lot of paens to the moment have declared that this is something  of a hollow win, a legislative victory that doesn’t feel much like a win. Well I’m not having any of that. As someone who’s actually been involved in a fair bit of ground level organizing, it’s worth remembering that big changes rarely come at once. It might be getting cliche now, but these things really are long, hard, slogs. Progressive activism is like a football game, you accomplish your goal by moving the ball down the field, yard by yard, first down by first down. And while the ultimate goal is a touchdown, that’s no reason not to be happy about picking up a first down. So while the legislative process continues to be a mess, while fights over the adaquecy of the bill may cause headaches, and while the endless compromises with nitwits and sociopaths like Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman may depress, that’s no reason not to feel joy over the accomplishment. For the first time in 76 years, the United States Senate has voted to move towards universal healthcare in America. The fight isn’t over, it never is, but this is a pretty big first down. And for that we can all be joyful this Christmas.