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The Michael Jackson Moment

stern_speaking_700b.jpg"We're in the Michael Jackson moment for health-care reform," says Andy Stern, head of the Service Employees International Union. "These town halls are stages that have been set for a show. There's no way any congressman can think this is representative."

At least, Stern hopes not. Before the town halls and the Gang of Six and the cameras and the article on A1, there were just a few players trying to muscle health-care reform to the front of the agenda. The most visible was Stern's SEIU. It held the first Democratic candidate forum entirely devoted to health-care reform. The union made it known that no candidate without a detailed and universal health-care plan would receive its endorsement. It partnered with AHIP and and the Center for American Progress and the Chamber of Commerce. It formed study groups on quality of care and the importance of coverage and the economic necessity of reform. Stern co-authored an op-ed with the CEO of Wal-Mart.

But now it's actually happening. All that work is paying off -- or not. I met with Stern in his glass-walled office overlooking Dupont Circle to talk about what's happened over these past few months. "It's interesting," Stern says, "that the business community has not produced a single Republican vote. If you juxtapose their intensity on the Employee Free Choice Act with health-care reform, they're playing pattycake on this. They know how to get tough."

"I think Congress will sober up and get something done," he says. But the process has been frustrating. "Waiting for bipartisanship has been like waiting for Godot," he continues. "And it won't protect them. No one thought stimulus was a bipartisan bill. Getting Grassley and Snowe isn't going to do it."

"I have no sympathy for the congressmen and senators who say they're taking too many hard votes," he continues. "The worst that can happen to them is they lose their jobs. Workers are taking much harder votes every day."

Photo credit: SEIU

By Ezra Klein  |  August 14, 2009; 4:42 PM ET
Categories:  Health Reform , Interviews  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: A Chat With the Head of the Health Insurance Industry
Next: The New Message

Comments

I have no sympathy for the congressmen and senators who say they're taking too many hard votes, either.

That's their freakin' JOB. If they can't stand the heat, they should get their asses out of the kitchen.

Posted by: rt42 | August 14, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

It is sort of amazing that the business community has largely decided to ignore the battle of health care, yet there's a groundswell of populist sentiment that could take down the bill on it's own.

Posted by: laser83 | August 14, 2009 9:29 PM | Report abuse

laser83,

its kind of like the insurance industry. they haven't said much at all other than they want reform. You've had most insurance companies for reform (Aetna, Cigna and the smaller insurers) and some against it (Wellpoint, BCBS) but for the most part they've stayed quiet for fear of being further branded as greedy. Its allowed it to get this far, farther than its ever been.

Posted by: visionbrkr | August 14, 2009 9:42 PM | Report abuse

"I have no sympathy for the congressmen and senators who say they're taking too many hard votes,"..."The worst that can happen to them is they lose their jobs."

But that is just the point. For most of our congressmen and senators, keeping their jobs is very important to them. Why does Mr. Stern think the so-called Blue-Dog Democrats were the first to seriously draw blood in this health-care debacle? It is about keeping their jobs in their districts.

That is exactly what the Republicans are also doing. It is just that they have always been better at this game...that is what it has become...than the Democrats. Time and again they find a way to shift any debate for the serious things that need to be discussed, which in most cases might lead to them losing their jobs, to mundane things that ensure they keep their jobs. What are we discussing now? Surely not health-care reform. It is now all about the rancorous debate about the discussions about health-care.

What amazes me is how clueless the Democrats always are about these things. That they didn't expect what is happening now from the Republicans, after leaving the barn door wide open and skipping town for a whole month, is amazing to me.

Posted by: ZnanaB | August 15, 2009 5:14 AM | Report abuse

"We're in the Michael Jackson moment for health-care reform,"
I don't understand this comparison at all. Does he want to say, the reform died, but the public doesn't know it yet? Or that the reform is dead, and the media is going wild with "the best of healthcare reform" coverage? Or that some doctors killed it? What???

Posted by: Gray62 | August 16, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

""I have no sympathy for the congressmen and senators who say they're taking too many hard votes," he continues. "The worst that can happen to them is they lose their jobs. Workers are taking much harder votes every day."

Indeed! And unlike representatives and senators, we don't have the necessary contacts to walk into fatly-remunaterated jobs at lobbying firms...

As rt42 wrote, these officials were elected to do a job. If they don't like it, they can always do a Palin and resign.

Posted by: Gatsby10 | August 17, 2009 12:46 PM | Report abuse

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