The Agony Of Jon Cohn

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Cohn writes a letter to nervous and frustrated House Democrats. I want to look away. Those of us who want Obama to succeed in tackling this country's deepest problems are bummed enough. But healthcare reform was never my reason for supporting him. I was much more invested in getting past the cynicism and laziness of the red-blue divide, restoring the rule of law and the constitutional balance, ending the unwinnable wars in  Iraq and Afghanistan, stopping torture, and so on. But for those progressives who have fought for wider access to health insurance for their entire lives, this must be an excruciating, devastating moment.

It is, of course, heightened by the almost unimaginable irony of Ted Kennedy's seat being the death-knell for insurance reform, the end of the hopes of many that they might have a chance to buy some affordable insurance, that they could get insured despite a pre-existing condition, that the rest of their lives would not be filled with economic stagnation and profound personal insecurity. Well, the GOP has a clear message to them: "Tough shit. We needed a way to break a reform presidency and your lives were the mechanism."

The glee with which the GOP is greeting the end of any access too health insurance for millions of the working poor, even as they propose nothing in its stead to help them or to restrain soaring costs for everyone else, is instructive. This really is a game to them. But to the sincere progressives who backed this moderate bill as the best they could get, this is, simply, tragic. And to those of us who wanted politics to become something more than a game, given the accelerating decline of this country on all fronts, it's a body blow.

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