By now you have heard or read about Senator Kerry’s speech at Faneuil Hall today. I was there in the back of the Hall, struggling to find a network to let me live-blog something out of the place, but it was not to be. These are some thoughts that I had while listening to the Senator speak:
Senator Kerry stakes out ground as a D-E-M-O-C-R-A-T…
Senator Kerry was preceeded to the podium by two speakers, Thomas Farrington, who, like Kerry himself, is a prostrate cancer survivor and by the Senator’s youngest daughter, Vanessa Kerry, who is one year away from her medical degree. Mr. Farrington pointed out the particular problems that African-American men have in getting medical treatment because of the cost and because of institutional problems in the delivery of preventive care to minority communities in America. He spoke of working with Kerry on getting help for minority men in getting treatment for this disease. Mr. Farrington pointed out that he, as a black male, has a far greater chance of getting and ultimately dying of this curable disease simply because he is African-American.
Farrington’s remarks were not chosen at random. If I was to use any phrase to describe Senator Kerry’s remarks today it would be Democratic. (Large D.) The Senator spoke pointedly about the problems that low income people have in affording health care. He pointedly mentioned that the delivery of health care in poor and minority community is far worse than it is in middle or upper class areas. In other words, the good Senator spoke as a Democrat. As he did in his speech about Iraq, he claimed a moral high ground and spoke of health care not as a privilege that should be afforded some people, but as a right that all Americans should have at birth.
Kerry is staking out ground here that separates him from the Republican plans that only partially cover part of the population by design. Kerry’s plans cover those who have no other recourse, those who can’t use the President’s Health Savings Accounts because there is no money left over to go to those fraudulent systems for a lot of people. The Senator’s point in comparing the Bush non-plan for delivery of health care to the way they conducted emergency relief for Katrina victims is that Republicans are once again abandoning the most vulnerable Americans to neglect. Democrats have traditionally spoken for such people and advocated for a certain set of rights for all Americans that are not contingent on ability to pay.
Senator Feingold released a plan last week that he is proposing that would allow the individual states to choose how they would cover their citizen’s health care needs. While Feingold’s plan does mention that states would have to have some minimum coverage federally mandated, it does not have the sweep or the overall coverage that Kerry is aiming at here. Kerry specifically today proded Democrats not to nibble around the edges of this problem, not to pretend that a few dollars here or a few fixes there would really solve the problem. He is asking for a grand plan that really addresses the whole problem and that does so with an idea to including all Americans in the coverage.
Spoken like a true Democrat. Senator Kerry has been staking out his own ground this year and really pushing his Party to differentiate themselves from the Republicans. He did so when he called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq and specifically wanted to set a deadline to begin to bring the troops home. A lot of Democrats criticized this within the Senate and complained that Kerry’s plan was too far outside of the main stream. The Senator did this last month when he used Faneuil Hall to introduce a comprehensive environmental and energy policy that included mandates for fuel usage and strict terms for how to begin to deal with a whole host of environmental problems. Again, there are a lot of Democrats who would rather not draw attention to the fact that they differ with the Republicans so profoundly on issues that cost money. And again today, Senator Kerry laid out a plan that is in direct opposition to the ideas of the Republicans on health care, which are mainly encapsulated in the Associated Health Plans and Bush’s Health Savings Accounts.
Kerry has a better plan. It is a Democratic plan. It presents a clear choice and a clear break with current policy and it is aimed at a wider group of citizens than anything that the Repubs have laid out. It is a bold and distinct choice and not something that just fiddles with the edges of the problem.