Why does Rice play Texas?

26 Aug

Ted Kennedy's speech tonight at the Democratic Convention in Denver was one of the more moving ones I can recall. While in general this year's convention is already far better than 2004's total snooze-job of a convention for a total snooze-job of a candidate, this speech was pretty special. The words themselves were not as significant, one might say, as the fact that Kennedy managed to deliver it more or less full-tilt despite his highly malignant brain tumor. Still, though, I found his references to his brother's push to go to the moon personally relevant (as a student of astronomy, I suppose).
If you've ever read The Onion: Our Dumb Century, you probably remember the faux headline from 1969: HOLY SHIT: Man lands on fucking Moon. Yet, still, we actually did that. We as a country (or at least, as a corps of scientists and ex-military pilots with a great deal of public support and enthusiasm) did what would have seemed only few decades earlier to be a pretty ridiculous piece of science fiction. So…why can't we institute the same damn national health care system that every other industrialized national has?

It seems to me like it really boils down to a lack of political will. We have the resources to institute a national health program, and logistically it wouldn't be as hard as you might initially think (Physicians for a National Health Plan has a pretty good breakdown of what would need to happen). We just don't do it because, well, because of the same reason you might sit around your apartment watching YouTube videos all Sunday when you meant to go to the gym, buy groceries, and cook yourself dinner. Certainly the inertia has a lot to do with the very powerful health insurance lobby, but I maintain that we could overcome that if we wanted to. It may seem Herculean, but after all, we went to the fucking Moon, right?

It's fundamentally the same argument that Al Gore makes about addressing global warming. The technology capacity exists to fix the problem now, we just haven't yet been able to summon the political will to implement it. The same goes for the perpetually beleaguered but utterly crucial subway system in New York, and the push to make our urban development patterns in general more sustainable. Hell, almost every political issue that I feel very passionate about comes down to a question of political will, rather than actual impossibility (I say almost because I also want to colonize other star systems, but sadly that is an issue of technological impossibility for the moment).

One wonders though: if Obama were to be elected president, he may well have a massive majority in the House and Senate (40+ seats and 8+ seats respectively is a fairly conservative estimate; it could well be more). With two Supreme Court justices poised to die or retire, he might appoint two justices to a fairly evenly divided court. His presidency might be the one where the political will to address these issues is finally roused. This hasn't truly happened since FDR. The Kennedys seem to think he's up to the challenge of following in FDR's footsteps…let's hope they are right.