There has never, in the history of American politics been a president who has changed his mind, his position or his tune on a single issue more than Barack Obama has changed on the public option.
The public option is and always has been the centerpiece of reform, the single most important element and the one that will create more change and accomplish more than any other. Unfortunately the public option has created more change in Obama’s mind as well and with a vote coming up on Tuesday its hard to know where he stands.
At first he supported it, then it was expendable, then it was important, then it was only a “sliver”, then he said he wouldn’t back down from it, then he backed down from it, then was for it again.
Obama backed off the public option during August when polls ostensibly showed the public was split over it after having supported it by more than 70% back in June before the Republican attacks that went largely unanswered by Obama. Then the town hall crazies and frenzied mobs showed up with Hitler signs and Obama backed off again
When the Democrats in congress publicly repudiated Obama for talking about dropping it Obama reversed himself again and claimed he supported it. He kept dropping it and supporting it and dropping it and supporting it depending on what the latest poll was or what the press was saying.
Now the Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on the Finance committee bill. The three Democratic senators who voted against the public option amendments in committee all said they supported it and voted no for other reasons but indicated that in a floor vote they’d vote yes.
A recent CBS poll (Sept.26) showed that 65% of Americans want a public option. That would translate to about 150 million Americans old enough to understand the debate and be affected by it. IN a Reuters poll 65% were willing to pay higher taxes for health care reform and while the question (stupidly) didnt specifically mention the public option, the public answered since a public option is the only aspect of reform that would require government money.
They as well as most members of congress seem to know what Obama has been having a hard time understanding — that the public option is essential to health care reform and its defeat would be a victory for the insurance companies and the status quo. Because nothing would change things more than the public option.
What Obama’s position on the public option is now is hard to say. But he has shown to leadeship on the issue which is what has been sorely needed. Obama has been changing his mind according to the latest poll or which side happens to be yelling the loudest at the moment. But the public option is clearly something the majority of Americans want. So it will be up to Reid and Durbin to make sure the votes are there. both to break a potential filibuster and to pass a public option in the senate.And up to the public to do something Obama hasn’t been doing enough of — call their congressman.