By Dan E. Beauchamp
The historic vote Saturday night in the House of Representatives for health care reform is incredibly important. We should all celebrate and thank Speaker Pelosi for pulling it off. Yet, as most know, the 220 to 215 majority reminds us that the struggle between strong democracy, majoritarian democracy and weak, anti-majoritarian democracy within the Democratic Party is not over, and will likely continue for some years into the future.
If the Democrats succeed in the Senate and if they make the most of this victory next year by reminding the electorate, time and time over, how historic this shift is, then the future of a stronger, more progressive majority in the U.S. may be in the cards.
This vote will put pressure on the Senate. And while the narrowness of the victory will encourage some Blue Dog Democrats in the Senate to risk voting against their party, they also surely must know that the Republican Party is coming after all Democrats in 2010 no matter how they vote today to seek to bury this victory. And those in the House who voted against their own party know that reform when and if it comes will change the politics in their own districts.
A very substantial fraction of the Democratic Party is holding tight to the politics that brought them, sectional politics, "red" versus "blue" politics, and it may just be beginning to break up.
The next month and the next years will be crucial for all of us who hope for, who wait for, a democracy of days, a democracy that battles to make daily life for ordinary people more secure in the United States, and not just with health care reform.
Writer Dan E. Beauchamp, Ph.D., led health care reform efforts in the mid-1990s, and served in New York State government. He lives in Bisbee, Arizona, where he served for a time as mayor.