A few comparisons from recent American history to keep in mind concerning health care reform.
For even a casual observer of current events and recent history like me, there are many parallels you can make with the current health care fight. Of the two I'm thinking of right now, one has been argued prominently by Paul Krugman, and the other is so obvious as to be commonplace--but they're two ideas I think should very much be kept in mind.
The first parallel is between a public health care system, and public education. Public schools as we know them were created in the 1800's, and our educational system rounded into form in the 1900's, with K-12 education, public universities and laws for mandatory attendance, funded by both state and federal tax dollars. There is, of course, no constitutional mandate for this system, but it happens to be one of the biggest reasons for the United States' rise to world prominence. Citizens of this country have (still! Despite the obstacles) the freedom to improve their livelihood by means of their own individual efforts (and this website is tremendous evidence of just that). My education K-12 was public and I felt just as prepared going into college as anyone (meaning, I was shaking in my shoes, but I knew I'd done well in some tough classes).
Somehow, despite the presence of this unconstitutional, state-run industry, the United States has flourished as a country, and a parallel, privately-run industry of schools, from preschool to graduate, has also flourished. Not only do public and private industries coexist, but the country is very possibly better for both.
Tell me, why is this not possible in the field of health care?
The second parallel is in the realm of bringing this proposed system into being, and my comparison is to the civil rights legislation of the '60's. Civil rights is very possibly the most significant act our nation's Congress has ever produced, aside from the Constitution itself. It required real political heroism on the part of Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats he persuaded to follow him, to pass the series of bills, capped by the 1964 act, which liberated blacks and other minorities from many of the official restrictions on their lives. It was as crucial a piece of human rights law as has ever been written. Johnson was told, and knew, that the Democrats would "lose the south for 50 years" (another Krugman reference) if they passed that bill. They did it anyway. The nation and the world still thank them.
Passing health care now will require similar heroism. Obama's stated that he wouldn't mind being a one-term President if he can pass health care reform--but he seems to waffle enough that he leaves those of us who desperately want him to succeed, to doubt his determination. Passing health-care reform may well lead to a huge Republican backlash that will be felt in the next three elections. So the question becomes even more urgent: isn't health care reform important enough to risk that?