I wrote at the time that this was the ride of a lifetime. It certainly was.
The ride afterwards has been pretty wild, too. President Obama’s beautiful speech revving up House Democrats for that vote seems even more poignant today than it did then:
…every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made in all those town meetings and all those constituency breakfasts and all that traveling through the district, all those people who you looked in the eye and you said, you know what, you’re right, the system is not working for you and I’m going to make it a little bit better….
Every single one of you has made that promise, not just to your constituents but to yourself. And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true.
When I remember that day and that White House visit, I most enjoyed the view afterwards when the mob had dispersed, chatting with a few friends who were also covering the event, touching the table at which President Obama signed health reform.
My notes at that ceremony were sentimental.
Despite many missteps, obstacles, and disappointments, President Obama, House and Senate leaders vindicated their decision to pursue comprehensive health reform. In doing so, they brought to fruition the efforts of thousands of people, few of whom are in any way famous, many of whom would not live to see this happy occasion. This bill somewhat vindicated our ossified political system, too. It showed that large accomplishments are at least possible, if one is lucky, and if one is willing to pay a great political cost.
I still believe that, though our ossified political system has certainly not distinguished itself since then. Effective implementation of the new law requires bipartisan craftsmanship, tinkering, and repair at many turns. Republicans have poisoned the political atmosphere, using every procedural device to delay and obstruct everything they can related to health reform.
For Democrats, the political cost has proven higher, so far, than I had hoped. After the 2010 midterms, some Democrats may wonder whether it was worth the required political capital to get this done, and thereby to insure 32 million people and much else, too. It was. The President was right. We are bound to be true.