Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi, but the lady delivered. When it counted most, when others swore it was futile, when the full brunt of an angry opposition came down on her, she delivered. Not to go all Joe Biden on the situation, but the passage of health care reform this week was a big fucking deal. Sure, it’s not everything many of us had hoped for. And it’s a lot more than others ever wanted. But this is how progress works. It is rarely pretty. It is always hard. It is never perfect. Change is a process, but it won’t happen without that first, gigantic step.
And it might not have ever happened without the Speaker of the House. Now I’ve had my differences with Pelosi’s leadership style and overall approach before. But I’ve never doubted her intellect and conviction, and now I’ll never doubt her toughness again. By all accounts it was Speaker Pelosi who prodded President Obama to stay aggressive about passing health care reform. By all accounts it was Speaker Pelosi who cajoled Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to grow a pair. And by all account it was Speaker Pelosi who strong-armed the skittish House Democrats to get the votes needed, more even, to pass this historic piece of legislation.
Now l still believe that the role of government is to help people, to solve big problems, and to ensure our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And it’s really hard to have any let alone all of those three if you’re sick and can’t afford to get better. The simple right to be healthy, to even just be alive, shouldn’t be reserved for the rich. We are a society that is plenty wealthy enough to make sure our most basic health is ensured. It’s downright shameful that we don’t. But that begins to end now.
Pelosi, who turns 70 today, is not only the first female Speaker of the House, but as second in line to the presidency she is perhaps the most powerful woman in American history. And she has done it all, amazingly, with that near perpetual smile. For this, she has been called many things. A dingbat. A dilettante. And, my favorite, a San Francisco liberal. The horrors! Yet somehow, people still buy Rice-a-Roni.
But such chronic underestimation is something she is no doubt used to, and clearly has no problem overcoming. There were times during this past year when I was sure that all hope was lost, that the bill was dead, that the Democrats simply didn’t have the spine. But that was just me underestimating her, too. She had the spine all along. Sure it wasn’t seamless, and certainly the work isn’t done. But it’s that first, gigantic step we needed. Thank you, Madame Speaker. Have a happy birthday, you’ve earned it. Happy weekend, all.